Christ

Mark 12v01-12, Parable of the Wicked Tenants

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Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat are you going to do with Jesus? That may be a question that you have ignored for far too long. The question of what you will do with Jesus may seem irrelevant to you. The importance and relevance of a man who lived nearly 2,000 years ago may escape you. You may not think that it matters to you, or has any bearing on your life. But the question of what you do with Jesus and how you relate to him cannot be ignored indefinitely. Sooner or later, too late perhaps, you will face that question.

In Mark 12, Jesus responds to the religious authorities who have already made up their minds about him. They have not considered the evidence; they have simply considered their own positions and comfort and have concluded that Jesus is too dangerous to have around. They have come to the conclusion that Jesus cannot be ignored.

1.      First, Let’s Trace Some of the Background

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus faced opposition from the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. From the first chapter of Mark, people began comparing Jesus with the Jewish religious leaders. People were “astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). The scribes did not appreciate the comparison.

So the scribes question Jesus’ authority to forgive sins:

Mark 2:7 (ESV) “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

  • The scribes question his association with tax collectors and sinners (2:16).
  • The Pharisees question his apparent lack of spirituality since his disciples did not fast (2:18).
  • When his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees question his understanding of the Sabbath (2:24).
  • When Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees join forces with the Herodians, their political enemies, to try to destroy Jesus (3:2-6).
  • When he casts out demons, the scribes say that he is possessed by Satan and that he gets his power from Satan (3:22).
  • They even oppose Jesus because his disciples did not wash their hands before eating! (7:2-5).

What would they do about Jesus?

Up to this point the opposition had been limited. The opposition was mostly in Galilee, not Judea, far from Jerusalem. But some of the scribes had been sent from Jerusalem to oppose Jesus.

Now, Jesus has come to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. This is not the first time that he has been to Jerusalem, nor is it the first time that he has faced opposition in Jerusalem, as we learn from the other Gospels. But never has the opposition been so intense. Never has the opposition been so united against him.

Until now, Jesus has been opposed by the scribes and the Pharisees. But now that Jesus is in Jerusalem, we read for the first time in the Gospel According to Mark that “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” are joined together in their opposition against Jesus. Hostility to Jesus has risen to a new level of intensity. It is no longer just the scribes and Pharisees who are opposing him; Jesus is now facing real political power. The chief priests and the scribes and the elders are plotting together how they will eliminate the competition. This will be the last week of Jesus.

On Sunday, Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem to the shouts of acclamation: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk. 11:9-10 ESV).

On Monday, Jesus entered the outer court of the temple, the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was the place where Gentiles were supposed to be able to pray, but instead it had become a marketplace full of oxen and sheep and pigeons and money-changers. Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. By his action, he condemned the temple practices because the religious authorities had turned his Father’s house into a den of thieves (11:17).

On Tuesday, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders demanded to know what right Jesus had to do these things. They asked Jesus where he got his authority. They were not honestly interested to know where Jesus got his authority; they simply wanted to silence him, and they would silence him by any means possible.

Jesus responded by asking them where John the Baptist got his authority. The religious authorities discussed what answer they should give. Rather than giving a straightforward answer, they calculated that a decision for John would imply support for Jesus, but a decision against John would alienate the people. So they answered, “We do not know.”

These men were not interested in entering into an honest dialogue with Jesus. They had their positions to think of. John’s Gospel reveals their real concern:

John 11:48 (ESV) If we let him go on like this [they said], everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

The truth is that they did not want to know. They were unwilling to know. They were unwilling to commit themselves.

Perhaps you are trying to keep an open mind about Jesus. You want to keep your options open. You are opting to suspend judgment. You want to wait and see. Let’s face the truth: you are opting for “skepticism, unbelief, and cowardice.”[1] Like these men, you are more concerned about your position and power and prestige. You are more concerned about what your family will say. You are looking at what it might cost you to follow Jesus.

What will you do about Jesus?

The religious authorities had followed Jesus’ ministry from the beginning. On numerous occasions, the Sanhedrin had sent scribes to gather information. They had asked many questions. They had made accusations, all in their attempts to undermine this man who was gathering great crowds wherever he went. Now that Jesus was in Jerusalem, he was in their territory. This was their temple. This was the place where they wielded their greatest authority. They had opposed him from the beginning. They had opposed him from a distance. But now it was time to get rid of Jesus once and for all.

What would they do about Jesus?

These men, the chief priests and scribes and elders, represented the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was “a buffer organization” between the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation. It was composed of 71 members and “held near complete freedom in religious matters and restricted freedom in political matters.”[2] These men held the fate of Jesus in their hands. Or so they thought.

What would they do about Jesus?

Mark 11:18 (ESV) And the chief priests and the scribes … were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.

2.      The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12)

We now arrive at Mark 12. We might have thought that Jesus would be intimidated when confronted with the political power of the Sanhedrin. We might expect him to avoid the controversy. We might expect him to defend himself. But Jesus does not adopt a strategy of evasion and escape. He goes on the offensive. Jesus further reveals his own self-understanding as the Son of God through the Parable of the Wicked Tenants:

Mark 12:1-12 (ESV) And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture: “’The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

 

2.1.     Interpretation

Jesus uses an illustration from absentee land ownership. The absentee landlord would lease (or hire) his land to “tenant farmers.” At harvest, he would send a hired hand to collect his produce. But instead of sending the landlord his due, the farmers paid their rent in blows: they beat the landlord’s servant. The landlord then sent others who received the same treatment or worse. Finally, he decides to send his son. Surely they will respect his son! But no! The farmers see things differently. If they kill the son, there will be no heir and the property will be theirs. They kill the son and thrown him in the ditch and seize the property. Will their plan work? No. The landlord comes and destroys the wicked tenants and then leases the land to others who are more deserving.

Mark tells us that that the chief priests and the scribes and the elders “perceived that [Jesus] had told the parable against them.” That means that this parable is not a judgment upon the Jewish people as a whole. Rather, it is a condemnation of the Jewish leaders, the shepherds of Israel, particularly the Sanhedrin.

This is the first time since chapter 4 that Jesus has told a major parable. It is “a story of Israel’s relationship to the Son of God.”[3] The Jewish authorities understood this parable because it was drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures. Isaiah, the prophet, identifies Israel as the Lord’s vineyard:

Isaiah 5:1-4 (ESV) Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:7 (ESV) For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

God complains of Israel in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 2:21 (ESV) … I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?

Jeremiah 8:13 (ESV) When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

Jeremiah 12:10 (ESV) Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.

The landlord is God himself. He planted the nation of Israel:

Psalm 80:8 (ESV) You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.

He wanted the fruit of righteousness, but…

2 Chronicles 24:18-19 (NLT) They decided to abandon the Temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Yet the LORD sent prophets to bring them back to him. The prophets warned them, but still the people would not listen.

2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (NLT) The LORD, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the LORD’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

Nehemiah 9:26 (ESV) “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies.

So God planted the nation of Israel as a choice vine, and sent prophets to bring about the fruit of righteousness. But they mistreated the prophets and even killed some of them.

Mark 12:6 (ESV) He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

The landlord “had still one other, a beloved son.” This is the third time we find the phrase “beloved son” in the Gospel According to Mark. At the baptism of Jesus in Mark chapter 1,

Mark 1:11 (ESV) And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Then on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John,

Mark 9:7 (ESV) And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The landlord would send his beloved son. The tenants recognize the son: “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours!” (Cf. Genesis 37:20a.) Their recognition of the son “only intensifies the gravity of the crime.”[4]

The tenants are shrewd and wise in their own eyes.

Isaiah 5:21 (ESV) Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

The Jewish authorities will do away with the Son. They will look out for themselves. They will protect their own positions of power and prestige. They will brook no competition to their position as leaders of Israel. All competitors must be eliminated.

The tenants took the son and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard to be devoured by the birds. This was Tuesday. On Friday, Jesus would be crucified outside the city walls. They would be rid of Jesus once and for all. Or so they thought.

The Jewish authorities think that they will have won the day once they kill the Son. But they seem to have forgotten that they will still have to deal with the owner, God. How self-defeating it is to try to “outmaneuver the owner of the vineyard.”[5]

2.2.     Warning

How unlikely it seems that a landlord would send servant after servant, and then finally his son, all in the hope that the wicked tenants would respect his son. And yet, that is exactly what God did. Through the centuries, with great patience and compassion, time and again, God sent his prophets to warn the people and to call them back to himself. Now he speaks to the Jewish authorities and to us through his Son:

Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Jesus tells this parable of the wicked tenants to warn these Jewish leaders that their shameful failure to fulfill their duties will bring God’s judgment upon them. They cannot escape by killing the Son, for God himself will bring judgment upon them.

God’s warnings are evidence of his patience and love for us. How careless we would be to ignore his warning and turn away from his voice.

What will you do with Jesus?

2.3.     Jesus’ Consciousness of His Sonship

Mark 12:6 (NIVO) “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

“Last of all” points to the finality of Christ. Yes, in these last days, God “has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). We are not looking for more prophets. Christ has spoken the final word.

Last of all, he sent his beloved son. Jesus knows who he is and where he came from and what he came to do. He knows exactly what is going to happen to him. He has already told the disciples on three separate occasions what would happen to him in Jerusalem.

Mark 8:31 (ESV) And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

 

2.4.     Rejection: The Rejected Stone Becomes the Cornerstone

So how does the parable end? Jesus caps it off with a quotation from Psalm 118:22-23

Mark 12:10-11 (ESV) Have you not read this Scripture: “’The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

“Have you not read?” Jesus asks. “Do you not know your Bibles? Do you not know that your plan will be overturned? You are the religious leaders of Israel and you do not know this?”

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

On the previous Sunday, as Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the crowd had chanted from Psalm 118:25,

Psalm 118:25-26 (ESV) Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

Now on Tuesday, Jesus quotes from the same Psalm (118:22-23). The Son of Man would be rejected, but the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

In Hebrew, the word son is ben. The word stone is eben.

The rulers of Israel would make a decision about Jesus, but God would overturn that decision. The Son of Man would “be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” He would be crucified on that Friday, but raised from the dead on Sunday. For forty days, Jesus would show himself to be alive by many infallible proofs. Ten days later, on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would be outpoured and Apostle Peter would preach that God had overturned the decision of sinful men:

Acts 2:23-24 (ESV) this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Again he would preach in the next chapter,

Acts 3:15 (ESV) and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

These men who rejected Jesus and put him to death, demanded to know by what authority Peter and John had healed a lame man. Peter boldly proclaimed,

Acts 4:11-12 (ESV) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The temple would soon be no more. But the cornerstone for the spiritual temple was laid. Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected. But he is now the cornerstone. He is the foundation upon which the church is built. Everything must line up with Christ. According to Ephesians 2, the Church is

Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Writing to Christians, the Apostle Peter described Christ as the cornerstone and Christians as living stones being built up as a spiritual house:

1 Peter 2:4-8 (NLT) You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. 5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 6 As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” 8 And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

So what will you do with Jesus? God is patient, not wanting any to perish, so he warns us, calling us to himself. So it is time to make a decision. You cannot live in the land of indecision. Refusing to decide is a decision against Christ. Is he a rock of offense to you? Is he a stumbling stone? Or is he your cornerstone, the foundation of your life. Reject him no longer. God has made him the cornerstone, and it is marvelous in our eyes.


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 6422). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 6374-6376). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 6439). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 151.

[5] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 151.

Image: http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/hm-parable-tenants/


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

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Mark 11v01-33, The Triumphal Entry and Judgment on the Temple

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngIn the Gospel According to Mark, chapter 11, we find some of the best known stories of the life of Jesus Christ. We read about his so-called Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This even took place the Sunday before his crucifixion and is celebrated by the church every year on what we call Palm Sunday.

This story of the Triumphal Entry is followed the next day by the cursing of the fig tree and the condemnation of the temple when Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple and declared, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mk. 11:17 ESV)

In the meantime, the chief priests and scribes were seeking a way to destroy him (Mark 11:17), so this chapter concludes with a confrontation between Jesus and the religious authorities. They demand to know what right Jesus had to condemn the temple.

So this eleventh chapter of Mark starts with the Triumphal Entry of the King to the shouts of “Hosanna!” And it finishes with the hostility of the Jewish authorities who are determined to do away with him.

Leading Events

Already in Mark 8, we arrive at the turning point of this gospel. On three occasions, Jesus has told his disciples what to expect. He has told them in detail exactly what is going to happen to him. He has told them that he will suffer many things and be rejected and be killed and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33).

First Announcement of His Death

Jesus first announced his death in the far north of Israel in Gentile territory. When Peter made his famous confession that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus then responded by telling his disciples that his mission as the Christ was to die, Peter rebuked him and told him that he was wrong to think such thoughts. Jesus in turn rebuked Peter that he was setting his mind on the things of man, rather than the things of God.

The Bible teaches us that we must abandon our ways of thinking and embrace God’s thoughts:

Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV) “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Second Announcement of His Death

After Jesus and his disciples returned to Jewish territory in Galilee, he taught them a second time,

Mark 9:31-32 (ESV) … “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Third Announcement of His Death

Jesus announced his death to his disciples a third time when they were in Judea on the road to Jerusalem.

Mark 10:32-34 (ESV) And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

No one wants to be crucified! Anyone else would have avoided it. Anyone else would have gone into hiding. People hide when their lives are in danger:

  • Baby Moses was hidden from Pharaoh.
  • The 12 spies hid from their pursuers in Jericho.
  • David hid from King Saul.
  • Elijah hid from King Ahab.

But Jesus, knowing everything that would happen to him, set his face like a flint toward Jerusalem. On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem. By Friday, he would be crucified, dead, and buried. And on Sunday, he would rise from the dead.

1.      Palm Sunday, the Triumphal Entry

Mark 11:1-10 (ESV) Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus and Muhammad

Steve Lambert is a Christian brother who lives in Washington, D.C., and is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He reflects on the differences between Christianity and Islam:

In no other manner are the differences between Muslims and Christians more sharply contrasted than in the difference between the characters and legacies of their prophets. Perhaps the contrast is best symbolized by the way Mohammad entered Mecca and Jesus entered Jerusalem. Mohammad rode into Mecca on a warhorse, surrounded by 400 mounted men and 10,000 foot soldiers. Those who greeted him were absorbed into his movement; those who resisted him were vanquished, killed, or enslaved. Mohammad conquered Mecca, and took control as its new religious, political, and military leader. Today, in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Mohammad’s purported sword is proudly on display. . . . Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, accompanied by his 12 disciples. He was welcomed and greeted by people waving palm fronds— a traditional sign of peace. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the Jews mistook him for an earthly, secular king who was to free them from the yoke of Rome, whereas, Jesus came to establish a much different, heavenly kingdom. Jesus came by invitation and not by force (Dever, It Is Well, 65)[1]

Fit for a King

Jesus normally walked wherever he went, but he does not walk into Jerusalem. Nor does he ride in a horse. Jesus sent two of his disciples to the village to get a colt “on which no one has ever sat” (Mark 11:2). Jesus demonstrates through the use of this symbol that he is claiming to be the king of Israel. Matthew specifies that this colt is a donkey (Matthew 21:2, 5, 7) and says that “this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet” Zechariah (Matthew 21:4):[2]

Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

They brought the colt to Jesus. No one had ever sat on it. According to the Jewish Mishnah (m. Sanh. 2:5), no one may ride a king’s horse.[3] The disciples spread their robes on the colt and Jesus sat on it. The King of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem, “humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

People spread their garments on the road leading into Jerusalem, just as the Jews had done when Jehu was anointed king (2 Kings 9:12-13). They spread palm branches on the road and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10).

Mark wants us to know that these acclamations are addressed to Jesus, the Son of David. He is the Lord who had need of the colt (Mark 11:3). “He, the Son of David, has come and has brought the messianic kingdom of David, as he has proclaimed from the beginning (1:15).”[4]

Passover would take place that week. It was a time of celebration, a time of remembering that God had delivered his people from Egypt. It was a time to pray that God would once again deliver his people and establish the kingdom for Israel. But Jesus was a different kind of a king, and his kingdom was not of this world.

Unlike Muhammad, Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom, but the rule and reign of God in the hearts of men. He did not come to conquer and kill, but to be killed on a cross to bear the sins of all men everywhere.

Yet, “[O]ur King has come, and our King is coming again. And what a difference there will be in His first and second advents.”[5]

The First Coming of Jesus The Second Coming of Jesus
He came to die. He will come to reign.
He came on a little donkey. He will come on a warrior horse.
He came as a humble servant. He will come as an exalted King.
He came in weakness. He will come in power.
He came to save. He will come to judge.
He came in love. He will come in wrath.
He came as deity veiled. He will come as deity revealed.
He came with 12 disciples. He will come with an army of angels.
He came to bring peace. He will come and make war.
He was given a crown of thorns. He will receive a crown of royalty.
He came as the Suffering Servant. He will come as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

 

2.      The Lord of the Temple

As Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, we might have expected something spectacular to happen. But the Lord’s arrival in Jerusalem seems anticlimactic:

Mark 11:11 (ESV) And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Jesus enters Jerusalem. He goes to the temple. He looks around. It’s late. He goes to Bethany.

But there is more here than meets the eye. Jesus is focusing on the temple. He does not simply look around. He is looking at everything that is going on in the temple. The same word is used in Mark 3:5 when Jesus looked around at the synagogue leaders with “anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.” It is used several times to indicate that Jesus was inspecting the temple (Mark 3:34; 5:32; 10:23). Jesus has come to the temple. He has weighed it in the scales of God’s divine justice and found it wanting.

“It was already late.” Not only was it late in the evening, on God’s timetable, it was already too late for the temple.

The Cursing of the Fig Tree

Mark 11:12-14 (ESV) On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

This is the last miracle in the ministry of Jesus, and it is a miracle that brings death, not life.[6] Jesus and his disciples spent the night in Bethany where we can imagine that they enjoyed hospitality in the village of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. It is Monday morning, and they are returning to the temple. Jesus was hungry. He saw a fig tree in full leaf. It was not the season for mature figs, but with the full leaf, there should have been early or unripe figs. But when Jesus came to it, he found nothing but leaves. It had the appearance of fruitfulness, but that appearance was deceptive. Jesus cursed the tree, saying, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

The Condemnation of the Temple

This story is not about a fig tree; it is about the temple. “The barren fig tree represents the temple that is unprepared for the coming of its Lord.”[7]

Jesus is acting out a parable. The fig tree often represents the nation of Israel. For example, in reference to Judah, we read in Jeremiah,

Jeremiah 8:13 (ESV) When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

The temple is like a fig tree without fruit. Jesus has inspected the temple and is on his way to pronounce his judgment upon it.

Mark 11:15-16 (ESV) And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.

Jesus comes to the temple. The outer court of the temple was the court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was the only place in the temple area where Gentiles could gather and worship God. The Jews had transformed it into a noisy, smelly public market where people changed money and purchased cattle for their sacrifices. How could the Gentiles pray in such a place?[8]

Mark 11:17 (ESV) And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

The Jews expected the Messiah to purge Jerusalem and the temple of Gentiles. Jesus came to do the opposite. “He does not clear the temple of Gentiles…” He clears the temple for Gentiles.[9] God’s house must not be a house of commerce; it is a house of prayer, and not for Jews only, but for all nations.

Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Malachi 3:1

Malachi 3:1 (ESV) “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. [That’s John the Baptist.] And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Jesus comes suddenly to the temple. Yet the next verse of Malachi continues,

Malachi 3:2 (ESV) But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? …

It is “already late.” It is too late now. Judgment is being passed.

Jesus does not intend to reform the temple. He is not cleansing the temple. Jesus is bringing God’s judgment of rejection upon the temple. Time’s up. It’s all over.

Before the week is finished, Jesus will teach about “the coming judgment upon the temple, Jerusalem, and the nation.”[10] Before the week is over, at the crucifixion of Jesus, “the curtain of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom (15:38).”[11] Israel’s privileged position will be taken away and given to others (Mark 12:1-12). Jerusalem itself will be destroyed.

Singlehandedly, Jesus drives out the merchants and money-changers. He does not merely predict the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; it is something that he will do.[12]

Mark 11:18-21 (ESV) And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city. 20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

The fig tree was withered to its roots. There was no hope of renewal. The cursed tree was a symbol of God’s judgment upon the temple. It was already too late.

Too often we miss life’s greatest opportunities. We think that there is always more time, always one more chance. There’s always tomorrow. But that it not true. There is not always tomorrow. You only have this moment. You have no guarantee for tomorrow.

The Israelites were brought to the border of the Promised Land, but in spite of God’s miraculous signs and provision, they did not believe that they could take the land. They refused to enter the Land of Promise. That generation was condemned to perish in the wilderness. The next day they had a change of heart and decided to go up against the Amorites. But it was too late. God was not with them. They were defeated and condemned to perish in the wilderness during the next 40 years (Deuteronomy 1). They had missed their opportunity.

So God continually appeals to you on the basis of today.

Hebrews 3:7-8 (ESV) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,

Hebrews 3:13 (ESV) But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 3:15 (ESV) As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,

You may not have tomorrow:

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT) … Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

3.      A Challenge to Jesus’ Authority (11:27-33)

Jesus had prophesied that the chief priests and scribes would reject him (8:31) and condemn him to death (10:33). They are now looking for a way to destroy him because, above all else, they wanted to preserve their own religious and political power (11:18).

Mark 11:27-28 (ESV) And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”

These are the chief priests and elders. They oversee the operation of the temple. None of them gave him the authority to drive out the money-changers. None of them gave him a license to preach or teach. This is their territory and they intend to keep it that way. So they demand to know what right he has to do these things. They assume that “no one possesses authority on his own to carry out such an outrageous sign of judgment on God’s temple.”[13]

Jesus boldly presumes to have divine authority to But Jesus seizes control of the situation.

Mark 11:29-30 (ESV) Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”

The question is easy enough. Everyone knew about John the Baptist. And the question was multiple choice: heaven or man? Was the baptism of John from God or from man? Was it of divine origin or human origin? Did God send John the Baptist, or did he come of his own accord?

The question would have been easy for men of integrity. But these men are calculating, conniving men, who do everything and who answer every question in terms of its impact on their own power and position.

Mark 11:31-32 (ESV) And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.

It is a horrible thing when religious leaders become politicians, when they are more concerned with protecting their position than with proclaiming the truth. These men were corrupt through and through.

Mark 11:33 (ESV) So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

Jesus has them. If they say that John’s ministry was from heaven, Jesus will ask them why they did not believe him. If they say that it was from man, the people will see them as spiritually unfit to lead. So they say that they do not know. But that only shows that these spiritual leaders “cannot tell the difference between what is from God and what is from men.”[14]

Mark 11:33 (ESV) … And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

But Jesus is not simply avoiding the question. He has revealed the spiritual bankruptcy of the Jewish authorities. At the same time, he points to the baptism of John. Jesus himself was baptized by John. And when he was baptized by John,

Mark 1:10-11 (ESV) And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

“By what authority do you do these things?” As the Son of God, Jesus is Lord of the Temple and has every right to condemn it.

Because of Jesus, we Gentiles are no longer kept in the outer court. Because he went to the cross, we Gentiles can enter the Most Holy Place that only the high priest could enter, and that only once a year. Because of Jesus, you and I can freely enter today and every day.

Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean…

[1] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 242). B&H Publishing Group.

[2] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 148.

[3] Garland, loc. cit.

[4] Stein, Robert H. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). 2008.

[5] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 248). B&H Publishing Group.

[6] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 149.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Walter W. Wessel, Mark in EBC, v. 8, p. 727-728.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark. Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 23.31.

[10] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Kindle Locations 13467-13468).

[11] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Kindle Location 13472).

[12] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Kindle Locations 13476-13478).

[13] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 306.

[14] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 150.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 10:46-52, “The Man Who Stopped Jesus”

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Introduction[1]

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What kind of influence does it take to stop a parade? Do you have that kind of influence? We find in Mark 10, the story of the man of great faith who stopped Jesus in his tracks.

 

Mark 10:46-52 (ESV) And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

1.      The Origin of His Faith

We are first impressed with the faith of Bartimaeus. We are not told how Bartimaeus came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. We can be sure that he did not come to faith in Christ from what he saw. Jesus had worked many miracles.

  • He had cleansed the leper (Mark 1:42).
  • He had healed the lame man (Mark 2:12
  • He had healed the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:5).
  • He had healed the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:29).

Jesus had done all these things and many more, but Bartimaeus had seen none of it. He was shut up in his own world of total darkness. How did he come to faith?

We can imagine that since Bartimaeus was a beggar, he would go where there were people. He would sit on the roadside near Jericho that was most travelled. There he would hear people talking about Jesus. Bartimaeus would stop them and ask them the news. He would ask them to tell him the story. He would hear that

  • Jesus had unstopped the ears of the deaf (Mark 7:35).
  • He had cast out demons (Mark 3:11).
  • He had raised the dead (Mark 5:42).

Bartimaeus would wonder if Jesus could give sight to the blind. And then one day, he heard the story. He heard that Jesus had restored the sight to a man born blind (John 9). Never before had such a healing ever been heard of, that a man born blind had received his sight.

As Bartimaeus heard that story for the first time, hope was born in his heart. “There is hope for me!” he said. “If Jesus passes my way, I will call out to him and beg him to open my eyes! If he gave sight to a man born blind, he can surely heal me!”

Day after day, Bartimaeus would sit by the roadside. He would call out to people and ask them to tell him again and again, “Come tell me the story of Jesus opening the eyes of the man born blind!” Again and again, people would tell him the story, confirming the truth of what Jesus had done. Again and again, Bartimaeus would listen intently with a smile of hope.

Day after day, he would sit alone on the roadside, turning the story over and over in his mind, imagining that he was the one whose eyes had been opened and what it would be like to see.

Perhaps he would meditate on a Scripture from Isaiah 61:1-2 that he had heard in the synagogue, that the Messiah — when he came — would open the eyes of the blind. He had heard that Jesus had opened the eyes of a blind man, and with keen spiritual insight, he came to believe that Jesus must be the Messiah, and from that day, Bartimaeus became a secret disciple of Jesus.

Others would follow the example of the religious authorities who were hostile to Jesus. Others would call Jesus an impostor, a deceiver, a fake, but Bartimaeus would never join in with them. How could a deceiver open the eyes of a blind man? Receiving his sight became the dream of his life. For one, two, perhaps three years, the one thought that dominated the thinking of Bartimaeus was that Jesus had opened the eyes of a man who was blind. This Jesus must be the promised Messiah.

And so, dear listener friend, how is it that you are still spiritually blind? You have heard of all that Jesus did

  • his virgin birth,
  • his sinless life,
  • his miracles,
  • his death for you on the cross,
  • his bodily resurrection from the dead,
  • the many proofs that he was indeed alive,
  • and his bodily ascension to the right hand of God.

You have heard of all that Christ did so that you could be forgiven, and cleansed of your sin, and adopted as a child of God into his family. How is it that you have not given sufficient thought to God’s grace and kindness and patience toward you? How have you been content to remain in spiritual darkness instead of coming to the Light of the World? (John 9:5).

This blind man had heard the story of Jesus healing another blind man, and faith was born in his heart. You have heard of Jesus forgiving others; will you not accept the forgiveness that he offers you? Perhaps you do not yet believe, but only hope. You have heard the Good News that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and you hope that it might be true. You hope that it might be true for you. Let me assure you today, dear friend, that it is true, and that there is hope for you, whoever you are!

2.      The Response of Faith

Mark 10:46-47 (NLT) Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Bartimaeus is sitting beside the road on the outskirts of Jericho. This was the main road between Jericho and Jerusalem. Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem. Walking ahead of his disciples, Jesus was on the road to suffering and rejection and death on the cross. It was an uphill climb of 3,500 feet (1,066 m) to Jerusalem and a distance of some 17 miles (27 km).

Passover was near and there were great crowds of people, but there were even greater crowds than usual, for many were following Jesus. Mark tells us that “as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him.”

Bartimaeus is sitting on the roadside when he hears the noise of the approaching crowd. He hears the shuffling feet and the hum of voices. He wonders what it is and calls out, “Why all the commotion? What’s going on?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” someone says. “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

“Jesus of Nazareth.” There is no spiritual insight there. In the Gospel of John, when Bartholomew heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The crowd had various opinions about Jesus. They said that he was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets, but they had completely failed to understand that Jesus was not a forerunner of anyone else. He was not a prophet pointing to someone else. He was the one that all the prophets had pointed to. Jesus was himself the focal point of the plan of God. He was the promised One. He was the promised Son of David. He was the Messiah. He was the Word made flesh. He was God in the flesh.

“Jesus is passing by!” That was enough for blind Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus had already concluded that Jesus was the promised Messiah, anointed and sent to proclaim the recovering of sight to the blind.

Others without faith would have said, “Oh, Jesus is passing. He must be busy. He has no time for me. He is about to leave. There is no hope for me. This is the way I’ve always been. Things will never change for me.”

It might not be enough for us for Jesus to pass by. We would want Jesus to come to us. We would want someone to tell us that he is standing still and looking for us. But this Bartimaeus’ faith is like that of the Syrophoenician woman who would not take no for an answer. When Jesus told her that the children’s bread was not for the puppies, she replied that even the puppies ate the crumbs that fell from the table.

Blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, and that was enough for him. He might otherwise have told himself that Jesus was leaving Jericho and could not stop for a poor blind beggar. But that is not how faith thinks. Faith says, “Now is the time! This is my opportunity! If Jesus is leaving Jericho, I must act now! This may be my only chance!”

Unbelief would have said, “Jesus is surrounded by a great crowd of people. There is no way to get to him. And then, there are his disciples. Jesus is busy with his disciples; he will never hear me.”

The crowd could have been a reason for letting the chance pass him by, but the crowd became his reason to cry out with all his strength. Unbelief would have shut the mouth of Bartimaeus, but faith opened it wide as he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

What about you? How many times has Christ not only passed you by, but knocked at your door, and called out to you? Time and again he has invited you,

Mat 11:28 (ESV) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Isa. 55:1 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Jn. 7:37 (ESV) … “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

Rev. 22:17 (ESV) The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires, take the water of life without price.

The poor blind beggar did not have the encouragements and invitations that you have had. Bartimaeus did not have multiple opportunities to call upon Jesus as you have had, and yet he did not waste the one opportunity that he received. How many times have you heard the gospel message? How many times have you heard Christ calling to you? How many times have you been invited to surrender your life to the One who died for you? Wait no longer! Today is the day of salvation. Call upon him and be saved.

3.      The Cry of Faith

Mark 10:47-48 (ESV) And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

As soon as hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing his way, he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” But the people rebuke him. “Be quiet! Hold your tongue, man! This is Jesus passing by. He has no time for the likes of you!”

Yet, Mark tells us that Bartimaeus will not be silenced. No amount of opposition can shut him up. “He cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Do not interrupt the Master!”

“Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Bartimaeus would not be denied.

In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestled with the angel and declared, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Bartimaeus was determined. He was desperate. He had no other hope: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

That is what faith looks like. If you are to be saved, your call must be one of desperation. Bartimaeus did not repeat some sinner’s prayer. He was not quoting some memorized text. This prayer was the cry of his heart. The gates of heaven are only opened to those who know how to knock. Your eyes will never be opened until your mouth is opened.

True prayer is like Mount Yashur. It may or may not be loud, but it has fire inside. It erupts in the burning lava that shoots up toward heaven and finds its way to God.

Have you called out to Christ in prayer? It was not a one time thing with Bartimaeus. He called out again and again. In earnestness he persevered until he was heard.

The man or woman who finds grace with God is the one whose desire for grace is greater than the obstacles to grace. His prayer will not be stopped by the opposition of family or friends or even religious authorities who try to silence him. His prayer is desperate because he has come to understand his great need of Christ. When your sinful flesh and Satan and your own heart would cause you to cling to the comfort of your rags of sin and be quiet, it is time to cry out all the louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

This man’s prayer was simple. He did not find his prayer in a prayer book. It was not a flowery oration. His prayer was not filled with impressive theological terms. He had simply recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of David. The words that came from his lips were first formed in his heart. They expressed his deepest desire for mercy.

Above the noise of the crowd and the voice of the teacher comes the piercing cry again and again, getting louder and louder each time it is repeated… until finally, Jesus stopped in his tracks.

Jesus will not ignore the earnest cry for help. He stops. He looks around. He sees a man who cannot see him. There on the roadside sits blind Bartimaeus, calling out to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Mark 10:49 (ESV) And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”

Miserable friends! Moments before, they had tried to shut him up. Now that Jesus was calling, they want to help him: “Cheer up, “they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” (NLT).

Here we see…

4.      The Obedience of Faith

Mark 10:50 (NLT) Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Jesus called. Bartimaeus answered. There was no waiting. No hesitation. No one needed to convince him. No one dragged him to Jesus. Bartimaeus threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Why have you not yet come? Did you not hear Jesus when he called you?

Matthew 11:28 (NLT) … “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Will you not come now? Get rid of your rags of sin and self-righteousness, and come. Do not think that he is not calling you.

  • He calls all who are weary.
  • He calls all who carry the heavy burden of sin.
  • He calls all who are thirsty for true life.

He is calling you.

Mark 10:51 (CSB) Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Rabbouni,” the blind man told Him, “I want to see!”

Bartimaeus knew what he needed from Jesus. There was no stammering, no stuttering, no, “Well, I don’t really know what to ask.”

Bartimaeus was clear: “Lord, I want to see!”

Jesus came to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. If you have heard his invitation to you, find a place to pray and tell him without hesitation that you want forgiveness. Just tell him straight. Confess your sins to him, all of them. Hold nothing back. Just say, “Lord, I beg you to forgive me for my drunkenness, my filthy mouth, my lies, and…” whatever else you have been guilty of.

Ask him to keep you from these sins in the future. Tell him about your hard heart. Ask him to give you a new heart. Ask him to help you to set your heart on Christ himself.

As you call out to the Lord from the depths of your heart, he will hear and answer you. He will open your spiritual eyes so that you may see clearly. You come to him bearing your sin and your shame, and in an instant, your sin is forgiven and buried in the depths of the ocean. You are a child of God and an heir of salvation.

Mark 10:52 (ESV) And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

This man is no longer blind Bartimaeus. He is forevermore “seeing Bartimaeus.” Now that he can see, what does he want to see? Does he rush to see his father, or mother, or sister, or brother? Does he not want to go see the temple in Jerusalem? Does he not want to see the mountains and flowers and ocean?

No. There is one thing that his man wants to see. He wants to see the man who opened his eyes. “Immediately he recovered his sight and followed Jesus in the way.”

When a man comes to Christ, when his blinded eyes have been opened to the truth of the gospel and the glory of Christ, he wants to serve Christ. He wants to tell others that his sins have been forgiven. He sings a new song.

Now you see this man in the crowd, the one whose face is full of joy? He no longer looks like a blind beggar because he has been touched by grace. His eyes have been opened and joy has filled his heart. That man could be you.

Jesus Christ was passing by. He would never be in Jericho again. If Bartimaeus had not called out to Jesus, he would be blind for the rest of his life. Christ and salvation are offered to you now. Will you let him pass you by? You may not hear his call again. How much better to call him now and ask him to open your eyes that you may see the glory of his salvation.

[1] Adapted from Charles Spurgeon, “The Blind Beggar.” Also referenced: Alexander McLaren and commentaries by James Edwards and Robert Stein.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 10v32-45, Walking with Jesus on the Way to the Cross

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Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngSometimes Christians fantasize about what it would have been like to walk the roads of Israel with Jesus. What would it have been like to hear him teach? to witness the miraculous healings? to hand out the loaves and the fish to the crowd of 5,000 plus? What would it have been like to walk with Jesus? In Mark 10, we get a glimpse into what it was like to walk with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.

In Mark 10, Jesus is making his last trip to Jerusalem. What awaited him in Jerusalem? Was it a Triumphal Entry of the King? Or would the King of the Jews be nailed to a cross? Both would happen. Jesus makes this final voyage to Jerusalem in the shadow of the cross. We read in…

Mark 10:32 NLT They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear…

Opposition against Jesus had been building. From the beginning of his ministry, the religious authorities had increasingly opposed him…

  • They opposed him when he forgave sins (Mk. 2:7).
  • They opposed him when he ate with sinners and tax collectors (Mk. 2:16).
  • They opposed him because his disciples did not fast (Mk. 2:18).
  • They opposed him because his disciples plucked grain on the Sabbath (Mk. 2:24).
  • They opposed him when he healed on the Sabbath (Mk. 3:2).
  • They accused him of using the power of Satan to cast out demons (Mk. 3:22).
  • They opposed him because his disciples did not follow the tradition of the elders (Mk. 7:5).

The opposition had become so intense that for a while, Jesus went into Gentile territory. There he healed the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, unstopped the ears and loosened the tongue of a deaf mute, opened the eyes of a blind man, and fed a crowd of 4,000 plus. The gospel was for the Jew first, but not for the Jews alone.

But now, Jesus had left Gentile territory. He had returned to Jewish territory and was, in fact…

1.      On the Road Again… to Jerusalem

Mark 10:32 ESV …they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid…

Jesus is walking head on to Jerusalem, the seat of the opposition. Jerusalem was the not only the seat of opposition; it was also the seat of political power. And Jesus is walking ahead of them, leading the way.

Luke 9:51 ESV …he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

He set his “face like a flint” to fulfill the purpose for which he came (Isaiah 50:7).

The Third Announcement of His Death

Mark 10:32-34 ESV …And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him…”

This is the third time that Jesus has told the Twelve that he would be killed and after three days, rise from the dead.

1.1.     The death of Christ was not an accident.

Jesus’ foreknowledge of his death shows that it was no accident. The death of Christ on the cross was not a tragedy. It was not a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesus tells his disciples in detail exactly what is going to happen to him:

Mark 10:33-34 ESV saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

This is the third time that Jesus tells his disciples about his imminent death, but it is the first time that Jesus announces the place of his death. It would take place in Jerusalem.

He calls himself the Son of Man: “the Son of Man will be delivered…” “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite title. It refers to his incarnation and his mission. He is the Word that became flesh. He is the God in the flesh. He is the God-man.

Hebrews 10 tells us that the Son of God became a man in order to offer his own blood as a sacrifice for our sin.

1.2.     The Son of Man will be delivered.

Several times in the Gospels, the religious authorities tried to arrest him. They even tried to kill him, but it was not his time. On one hand, he would give his life:

John 10:17-18 ESV For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

On the other hand, he would be delivered: “the Son of Man will be delivered.” He would be delivered by God the Father. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached

Acts 2:23 ESV this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

This is what we mean when we quote John 3:16,

John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God gave his only Son. He delivered him up for us.

Romans 4:25 ESV who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Romans 8:32 ESV He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

The Father gave his Son, and the Son gave himself.

1.3.     Jesus has exact knowledge of what awaits him.

This third announcement of his death is the most detailed. Jesus announces that two groups of people will be involved in his death: the Jewish authorities and the Roman authorities:

  1. The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and
  2. they will condemn him to death and
  3. deliver him over to the Gentiles.
  4. And they will mock him and
  5. spit on him, and
  6. flog him and
  7. kill him.
  8. And after three days he will rise

“Jesus’s prophecy concerning ‘the things [that] were about to happen to him’… is not portrayed by Mark as coming via a revelation from God.”[1] No, Jesus has direct and precise knowledge of the various details of his death. Mark wants us to know that…

Jesus’s death was neither a tragedy nor an unfortunate turn of events. Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing full well that he would be put to death. He knew the precise details of what would be involved, but he nevertheless went because this was a divine necessity (8:31; cf. 14:21a), and he desired to fulfill his Father’s will (14:36).[2]

Mark 8:31 ESV …the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 14:21 ESV For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him…

He will pray in the garden,

Mark 14:36 ESV …”Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

The prophet Isaiah had said of Christ, 700 years before,

Isaiah 53:10 ESV Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

 

2.      The Jesus Holdup: Give Us What We Want!

The disciples still understand none of this. On the one hand, they follow Jesus with great fear and trepidation, not understanding what he is talking about. They are blinded by their own misunderstanding of what they expect and hope the Messiah to do, and by their own ambitions. They are blinded by their lust for power.

In Mark 9:31, when Jesus teaches the disciples a second time about his death and resurrection,

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Then Jesus asked them what they had been discussing on the way,

Mark 9:34 ESV But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

Arguing about who was the greatest? They are not arguing about theology or the best methods of healing. They are arguing about who is number one![3]

Who is the greatest? The answer is obvious. Jesus is the greatest. Now he must show them true greatness.

Mark 9:35 ESV And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

What do they know about greatness?

We fast-forward back to chapter 10 where Jesus has just told his disciples that he will be delivered in Jerusalem to be killed.

Mark 10:35 ESV And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

That’s quite a request! They want a guarantee from Jesus that he will give them whatever they ask. They are asking Jesus for a blank check.

Mark 10:36-37 ESV And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

James and John are asking for positions of power along side Jesus in his coming kingdom. They want to be number two and number three in the line of authority. They are asking for the best seats in the house.

Where was Peter in all this? You will remember that Peter and James and John were the closest of the 12 disciples. Those three disciples had accompanied Jesus when he raised from the dead the daughter of Jairus. Jesus had taken Peter and James and John with him on the Mount of Transfiguration. But Peter is not mentioned in their request. Where they trying to shut him out? Where they afraid that he might get in line before them?

It is no wonder that we fail to understand suffering and rejection and the cross when we are carried along by blind ambition, trying to be number one. We want to get ahead of everyone else in line. We want first place. Jesus’ determination to go to the cross is totally incomprehensible to us, and yet, he said,

Mark 8:34 ESV … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Jesus told James and John,

Mark 10:38 ESV … ”You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

2.1.     Leadership involves suffering.

“Are you able to drink the cup?” Jesus is not asking if they will become his wine-tasters. “Nor is the cup the cup of victory (Pss 23:5; 116:13), though the disciples might hope that it were so. They will not be drinking from a silver chalice.”[4]

In Scripture, the “cup” almost always refers to suffering. Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

Closeness to Jesus means sharing his suffering and death, just as he has said that anyone who follows him must deny himself and take up his cross.

James and John gave a quick and easy response:

Mark 10:39 ESV And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,

Suffer, they would. James would be beheaded (Acts 12:2), and John would be exiled.

Leadership involves suffering.

2.2.     Leadership involves a divine assignment.

Mark 10:40 ESV but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

We do not choose our positions or the conditions of our service. We deny ourselves and submit to the will of God.

We can and should prepare ourselves and offer ourselves for service.

Abraham Lincoln was the sixteen president of the United States of America. Over 150 years ago, before Lincoln became president, slavery was lawful in the United States.

Long before Abraham Lincoln was in public life, he saw a slave being traded at a public market in New Orleans. The sight, he said, went like “steel into my soul,” and he told himself that if he ever had a chance to do something about it he would. “I will prepare myself,” he resolved, “and some day my change will come.” And his time did come.[5]

It is one thing to prepare for service; it is another thing to seek for promotion.

Mark 10:41 NET Now when the other ten heard this, they became angry with James and John.

Who did James and John think they were? Did they think that they were better than the other disciples? Self-promotion breeds division. When people begin to grab power for themselves, trouble begins. But the reaction of the other 10 disciples was no better. They were upset “because James and John thought of the idea and got to Jesus first!”[6] They are “still clinging to the same values of the world in terms of power-seeking and self-assertion.”[7]

It is interesting to note that Jesus said that it was not his place to assign those positions. Though he was God, he was not the Father. He distinguishes between his position as Son and his Father’s position. The Scriptures everywhere affirm three things about God:

  1. There is only one God.
  2. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
  3. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons within the one true God.

It is mystery, but it is not contradictory.

2.3.     Leadership involves servanthood.

Mark 10:42-44 ESV And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

Jesus describes leadership principles according to the world’s standards. The rulers of this world use power and authority to lord it over others. The so-called “great ones exercise authority over” others.

We do not force our views upon others. We do not force or coerce faith. That is actually impossible, for faith comes from the heart. We do not take up the sword to convince people to convert. When Peter took up his sword to defend Jesus, Jesus rebuked him, told him to put up his sword, warned him that those who take up the sword will die by the sword, and then Jesus healed the man that Peter had injured.

Sinful man exalts himself to the place of God. The serpent in the Garden of Eden promised that we could be like God. Man has displaced God and wants to be his own god and to lord it over others. We have turned everything upside down, so Jesus has come to turn things right side up.

There are great problems when we bring worldly methods into the church, when we run the church following the methods of the world. But when that happens, we are no longer the church! Jesus said, “But it shall not be so among you.” Jesus is not encouraging us to behave in a certain way. He is not telling us that his kingdom does not operate according to the world’s methods of leadership. Those who operate according to the world’s methods are not part of his kingdom; they are not following Jesus: “It shall not be so among you.”

Now, there are many who claim to follow Jesus but who lord it over others and exercise authority over others. The Apostle Peter tells us that pastors are not to lord it over the people assigned to their care but to lead them be their own good example (1 Peter 5:3).

James Edwards comments on this verse,

Thus, to fail in being a servant is not simply to fall short of an ideal condition but to stand outside of an existing condition that corresponds to the kingdom of God.[8]

The highest virtue in God’s kingdom is not power. It is not even freedom. The highest virtue in the kingdom of God is service. “Greatness belongs to the one who is not great.”[9] Greatness belongs to the one who serves.

This is not about me, and it is not about you. It’s about Christ in us serving others through us. “Service is love made tangible.”[10] Service is love in action.

The church does not exist for the benefit of the ministers and leaders. Pastors and congregational leaders exist for the sake of the people. The Christian leader is not above the congregation; he is part of it. “The congregation does not belong to him; rather he belongs to it.”[11]

3.      Why Jesus Came

Jesus has now told the disciples for the third time that he must die. Now, for the first time, he tells them why he must die.

Mark 10:45 ESV For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

First, Jesus came to serve. Those who follow Christ will not be driven by lust for power and authority. Rather, they will follow him to the cross, as Jesus explains: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”

The Apostle Paul explains…

Philippians 2:5-8 NLT You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Again,

2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Those who follow Christ will seek to serve.

Second, Jesus explains that he came to give his life as a ransom for man. He did not come to grab power. He came to give his life.

John 10:11 ESV I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Romans 8:3-4 NLT The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Jesus offered his life as the ransom price for all.

As God’s own delegate, and through his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus freely and obediently offers his life as a substitute in behalf of humanity. Jesus is supremely conscious of offering a payment to God that can be offered by no one else… The death of the Son of Man on behalf of “the many” is a sacrifice of obedience to God’s will, a full expression of his love, and a full satisfaction of God’s justice.[12]

The Justice of God

God is a God of justice. As the Judge of all the earth, he cannot finally allow sin to go unpunished. There is a penalty for sin. A great price was paid for you to be set free from sin. God himself bore the penalty and paid the price for your freedom. Will you not walk with Him on the road to the cross?

[1] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 12427). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 12427-12433). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Ford, Leighton. Transforming Leadership. 145.

[4] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 424.

[5] Ford, Leighton. Transforming Leadership. 150.

[6] Op. cit.

[7] Garland, David E. quoting Lee-Pollard in A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 424

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5973-5974). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). Mark (Kindle Locations 5976-5981).

[10] Op. cit.

[11] Op. cit.

[12] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). Mark (Kindle Locations 6008-6015).


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

Mark 10v17-31, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

You lack

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngHave you ever felt like something was missing?

  • Let’s say that you are working on a project such fixing the engine on your truck, but one of the bolts that holds it together is missing?
  • Or you are reading a story in a book, and suddenly the story does not make sense — because a page is missing?

Life is like that. Most people live with the feeling that something is missing. They feel that there is a void, an emptiness. They keep trying to find the missing piece of their life, but just cannot seem to find it.

That’s why the nightclubs are full. That’s why people turn to alcohol. That’s why drug abuse is on the increase. People are looking for that missing something.

But this is true, not only of non religious people; it is also true of many religious people. Many religious people still feel that there is a void in their lives. They may be looking for

  • significance or
  • meaning or
  • peace or
  • assurance of salvation.

Sometimes people begin following a false religion because they feel that something is missing. They may begin following a false Christian cult out of fear. Or they may simply keep changing churches because there is a hole in their lives that has not yet been filled.

Others are the kind of people that we would say are “good.” They are good people. They follow all the rules. They obey the commandments. But still, they feel that something is lacking. Something is missing.

What is missing?

In the Gospel According to Mark, chapter 10, we read about a young man who has everything going for him, but he is desperate to find the answer to life’s most important question:

Mark 10:17 ESV And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

1.      He Asked the Right Question (10:17).

Here was a young man in the prime of life (Matthew 19:22). Everything seemed to be going his way. He had all the money that he needed (Luke 18:23; Mark 10:22). He no doubt had a good standing in the community. But something was missing. And he did not know the answer to life’s greatest question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

This is the most important question that you and I could possibly ask. What must we do to inherit eternal life? In our heart of hearts, we know that there is something more.

  • We know that something does not come from nothing.
  • We know that the universe did not create itself.
  • We know that order does not come out of chaos.
  • We know that life is not produced by non-life.
  • We know that the DNA of the human genome and of every other living creature did not produce itself.
  • We know that there is a Creator.
  • We know that there is meaning to life.
  • We know that there is more to this life than living and ***dying and trying to make it through the day.

 

2.      He came to the right person (10:17).

This young man came to the right person. He came to Jesus.

We want answers to life’s most important questions, but we must be careful where we get our answers. There are many voices in the world giving many different answers to life’s questions. There are people who have thought a lot about the meaning of life. They have meditated on life’s profoundest questions. Some claim to have had revelations. They have seen visions or heard voices. Some have claimed to be enlightened. These men and women have founded new religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism and Islam. Others have founded new cults and sects based on their teachings.

Where should we turn to get the answers to life’s most important question? We should turn to the one who came from heaven.

  • Only Jesus came down from heaven (John 3:13; 6:38, 41-42, 51; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 1:6; 10:5; 1 John 4:9; etc.).
  • Jesus was the only one whose birth was announced centuries before it happened (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; etc.).
  • Only Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23).
  • Only Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • Only Jesus died on the cross for our sins as the Scriptures had prophesied (1 Corinthians 15:3).
  • Only Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4).
  • Only Jesus ascended bodily into heaven 40 days after his resurrection to be seated at the right hand of God (Acts 1:11; 2:33; 5:31; etc.).

This rich young man came to the right person. He came to Jesus with his question. Jesus alone is qualified to answer life’s most important question: What must I do to inherit eternal life.”

This man is desperate for an answer. He runs up to Jesus. He kneels before him. He asks him,

Mark 10:17 ESV …”Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus’ answer is a bit surprising.

Mark 10:18 ESV And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

What is Jesus saying? Is he saying that he himself is not good? No. The Scriptures are clear that “in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Jesus is doing at least two things with this question.

  1. He is asking why the man called him good. Does the man understand who Jesus is? Does he understand that God alone is good? It is entirely correct to call Jesus “good,” because he is God.
  2. Jesus is telling him that he uses the term “good” much too freely. The young man no doubt thinks that he himself is a good man, that he is good. Ask someone how they are today, and instead of responding, “Fine!” they will likely tell you that they are “Good!” But the Bible tells us that “None is righteous, no, not one… no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10, 12).

This man no doubt thinks that he is good, but there he has a nagging feeling that something is missing.

3.      He Got the Right Answers (10:18-21)

Mark 10:19 ESV You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

We tend to think of ourselves as pretty good people. We compare ourselves with others, and some of these commandments on the surface make us feel pretty good about ourselves. We don’t murder. We don’t commit adultery. Yeah, we’re pretty good.

Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever lied? Do you always honor your father and mother? Have you ever coveted something that was not yours?

These are probing questions. But Jesus reveals to us that lust is adultery. Hatred and anger are sinful. He tells us that external obedience to his commandments is not enough if there is evil in our hearts:

Mark 7:21-23 ESV For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

When Jesus reminds the young man about the commandments, he is not saying that we are saved by keeping the commandments. Rather, he is saying that keeping the commandments follows salvation.

Do you remember when the Law was given? Was it given before or after God delivered the Israelites from Egypt? The Law was given after God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt. God had brought the ten plagues upon Egypt. Before the tenth plague, the Israelites sacrificed lambs and painted the doorways of their houses with the blood of the lamb. The angel of death passed over them and spared the firstborn of every home where the blood of the lamb had been applied. The Israelites marched out of Egypt and miraculously crossed over the Red Sea on dry ground. God delivered them from Egypt. God had saved them, but the Law had not yet been given. They had not yet reached Mount Sinai. It was not until after their salvation and deliverance from Egypt that the Law was given. The Law was not given to save them. They had already been delivered. The Law was given to show the Israelites how they were to live under that covenant.

Now Jesus reminds this man of the commandments: “You know the commandments…”

Mark 10:20 ESV And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

Here is a remarkable young man! From his youth, he has kept the commandments.

We must not think that he is exaggerating or lying. The Apostle Paul spoke of his life before coming to Christ. He said that…

Philippians 3:6 ESV …as to righteousness under the law, [he was] blameless.

Without arrogance or hypocrisy, this man gives his moral report card to Jesus: “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…

Jesus looked at this man intently. He examined him. He read his heart. Jesus saw something “rare and admirable in the man, for of no one else in the Gospel does Mark say that Jesus ‘loved him.’”[1]

Jesus accepts the man’s self-evaluation. This man had kept the Law. Jesus did not challenge that. But something is missing. The young man knows that something is missing. That is why he is kneeling before Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life.

Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing…”

He had kept the commandments! What more did he need?

Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

What was this? Was this a call to poverty? Is Jesus telling us that we must take a vow of poverty in order to inherit eternal life?

No, not at all. The one thing that was missing from the man’s life was Jesus. “Come, follow me,” Jesus told him. Jesus said to him, in effect:

Right now God is your boss; but God is not your Savior, and here’s how you can see it: I want you to imagine life without money. I want you to imagine all of it gone. No inheritance, no inventory, no servants, no mansions— all of that is gone. All you have is me. Can you live like that?”[2]

Mark 10:22 CSB But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Money was the center of this man’s identity.[3] Jesus is what was missing.

You can obey the commandments, live a righteous life, be an example to others, and still be an idolater. Jesus loved this man, but he was lost.

What must we do to inherit eternal life? The answer is simple: We must follow Jesus.

  1. He Asked the Right Question (10:17).
  2. He came to the right person (10:17).
  3. He Got the Right Answers (10:18-21), BUT

4.      He made the wrong decision (7:22).

This rich man went away grieving. Jesus tells him to sell all that he had, give to the poor, and to follow him. He would have treasure in heaven, but the man preferred his treasure on earth to eternal life in heaven.

The Wrong Decision and the Unchanging Gospel

Jesus does not go running after the man. “Hey, come back! Don’t go! Let’s talk about this. I need people like you. You are very influential. The church needs you.”

No. Jesus could not build his church on people like him. How often the message of the gospel has been compromised. We have made false promises. We have preached a false gospel. We have told people that if they come to Jesus, they will never lack for anything. Life will always be sweet.

But Jesus says,

Mark 8:34 ESV … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

“Follow me,” Jesus says. “You lack one thing… you are not following me.”

The Peril of Riches

Mark 10:23-24 ESV And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Jesus now turns his attention to his disciples. He looks around and warns them, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”

They are astonished. The Jews thought that if you were rich, it was because God was blessing you. Rich in this life, rich in the next!

Jesus tells them again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Today we have false preachers telling people that the gospel is all about getting financial blessings. Faith is all about claiming your rights as King’s kids. This is what the sinful heart wants to hear. The so-called prosperity gospel appeals to our greed. It does not take a work of the Spirit of God to accept and embrace a teaching which appeals to our sinful greedy nature. But it does take a work of the Holy Spirit to enable me to deny myself, and take up my cross, and follow Christ.

It is the characteristic of cults to take the focus off of the center of Christ. We preach Christ and him crucified (2 Corinthians 4:5). The Apostle Paul said, “I determined not to know anything among you but Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2).

The Bible has so many warnings about the deceitfulness of riches.

1 Timothy 6:6-11 ESV But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things…

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus rebuked the church at Laodicea:

Revelation 3:17 ESV For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

They were financially rich but spiritually poor. Contrast that with his message to the church at Smyrna,

Revelation 2:9 ESV “’I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)…

It is not a sin to be rich, but those who are rich must be rich in good works:

1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

The disciples are astonished for Jesus’ teaching about riches has turned their worldview upside down. He emphasizes the point with a famous illustration:

Mark 10:25-26 ESV 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”

Some have tried to explain away what Jesus said, but he is clearly pointing to the impossibility.

Mark 10:27 ESV Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It is impossible with man, but not with God. When we understand that it is impossible for us to do anything to save ourselves, we look beyond ourselves to the God for whom all things are possible. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9).

The Promise of Life Now and Forever

So what does this look like, this Christian life? Is this simply a life of self-denial, a life of asceticism, a life of poverty, a life of doing without?

Peter wants to know.

Mark 10:28 ESV Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”

Jesus assures his disciples that following him “holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Mark 10:29-30 ESV Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means complete allegiance to him and his will. Sometimes it means leaving house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands — for his sake and for the gospel. Following Christ so that others may know him. Leaving the comfort of your home and the security of your family so that others may be saved. When Christ calls you to leave your island and go to another place that has no biblical witness, you are leaving home and family for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

But there is great reward, both now and in eternity. Jesus says that no one who does this will not receive a hundred times as much in this present age. Putting it another way, Jesus tells Peter that everyone who leaves home and family will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age. In serving Christ we inherit a huge spiritual family: brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus also speaks of houses and lands. The houses and lands are also to be understood in a spiritual sense:

“The new homes and fields are those that God’s people share with those in need.”[4]

Jesus said that we receive this with persecutions. There is a cross, but there is the joy of belonging to the great family of God. We have brothers and sisters and mothers and children without number!

[T]o conceive of discipleship solely in terms of its costs and sacrifices is to conceive of it wrongly — as though in marrying a beautiful bride a young man would think only of what he was giving up.[5]

Today my 15 year old son is traveling from Manila, Philippines to Port Vila. He has a long layover in Brisbane. But we have brothers and sisters in Brisbane who are going to pick him up at the airport and take him home and take care of him before putting him back on the plane to Port Vila. We have left home and family in the United States, but we have family here in Vanuatu, in Australia, in New Caledonia, in Fiji, in French Polynesia, in Europe, and in Africa. When you follow Jesus, you become part of the incredible family of God!

Something Missing?

So how is it with you? Do you feel like something is missing? Perhaps you have reached your goals and found out that they did not give you the satisfaction that you longed for. The signs around Port Vila tell us that happiness is a Facebook account. Or happiness is free SMS texting. That only lasts so long.

You will never fill that empty spot in your life with money or position or fame or success. You can follow all the rules and be as good as is humanly possible, but there will still be that nagging question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

You only lack one thing: You must follow Christ.


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5747-5748). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 129-130). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 129-130). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[4] Craig L. Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches, A Biblical Theology of Possessions, IVP, 1999. p. 140

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5827-5829). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 10v01-12, “God’s Plan for Marriage”

divorce-crieket

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to be a Christian? And what does a Christian marriage look like?

We’ve been walking with Jesus through the Gospel According to Mark.

  • We’ve seen him heal every sickness and disease among the people.
  • We’ve seen him restore hearing to the deaf and open the eyes of the blind.
  • We’ve witnessed his authority over demonic spirits as he set people free.
  • We’ve seen him feed the multitudes and command the winds and the waves.
  • We entered the room with him and Peter and James and John to witness his power over death as he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead.
  • We’ve heard him teach with authority as no man ever had.
  • We have also accompanied the disciples as Jesus taught them what it means to be a disciple — what it means to be a Christian — denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following him.

Now as we come to Mark 10, we are confronted with the question of how being a disciple impacts our interpersonal relationships, specifically, relationships between husband and wife, and God’s will for marriage.

The Christian life is not simply about believing in God or believing that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Even the demons believe that (James 2:19). The Christian life is all of that, but it is also a life of obedience to the commands of Christ. That means that the Christian is a person who has been so changed by the power of Christ, that he delights to do the will of God. He not only says that Jesus is Lord; he demonstrates that Jesus is his Lord by the way that he lives. This is of utmost importance because over and over again, the Word of God tells us that we are to obey his commands and pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

In Mark 10, Jesus declares the will of God concerning marriage. What he says is astounding in its impact. What he teaches in this passage cuts right across cultural norms and expectations. What Jesus taught about marriage and divorce is as astonishing to us today as it was to the Jews. So I invite your careful consideration of this most important passage.

1.      The Question: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? (10:1-2)

Mark 10:1-2 ESV And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

1.1.     The Question (10:2)

That is a question that we might never ask. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”[1]

In Jewish culture, as in much of the world today, it was assumed that a man had the right to divorce his wife. The only question was upon what basis a man could divorce his wife. What were the legitimate grounds for putting away one’s wife?

This was a debate in Jewish society. Some argued that adultery alone was sufficient grounds for divorce. If a wife committed adultery, the man had every right to send her away. Others argued that adultery was not necessary: a man could divorce his wife for any and every reason. This is how the question is put in Matthew:

Matthew 19:3 NIVO Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

There is a famous passage in the Mishnah which explains many of the Jewish beliefs. It speaks of two schools of interpretation, the School of Shammai, and the School of Hillel:

The School of Shammai say: A man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, for it is written, “Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.” And the School of Hillel say: [He may divorce her] even if she spoiled a dish for him, for it is written, “Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.” R. Akiba says: Even if he found another fairer than she, for it is written, “And it shall be if she find no favour in his eyes” (m. Git. 9: 10)[2]

The Jews and Jewish law agreed that divorce was allowed. It was only a question of what allowed a man to divorce his wife. There were different opinions based on one phrase in the Hebrew Bible, the phrase “because he has found some indecency in her” (Deuteronomy 24:1). One school defined indecency as unchastity, some sexual impurity. Another school of interpretation said that it referred to anything that the husband might consider indecent. And then there was another rabbi who picked up on the phrase “if then she finds no favor in his eyes” to allow a man to divorce his wife because he found someone prettier! Three reasons for divorce: sexual impurity, a spoiled dinner, or a prettier woman in the neighborhood!

1.2.     The Context (10:1)

Both Mark and Matthew tell us that the Pharisees asked Jesus this question about divorce “in order to test him.” They did not ask Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife because they seriously wanted to know the will of God concerning the matter. No, they already had their minds made up and were not interested in seriously considering the issue. They knew what they wanted to believe and simply wanted to trap Jesus with the question.

It is interesting that Mark tells us that this question took place in “the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan” (Mark 10:1). This is the region ruled by Herod Antipas. Herod had seduced his brother’s wife and convinced her to divorce her husband Philip. John the Baptist had denounced this marriage between Herod and Herodias, declaring that it was not lawful for Herod to have his brother’s wife (Mark 6:18). John had lost his head over this question. You could get your head chopped off for answering this question the wrong way!

What would Jesus say? Perhaps the Pharisees thought that the question concerning divorce would take care of the Jesus problem once and for all.

In any case, it is certain that the Pharisees suspected Jesus of holding a position on marriage that was different from their own. The Pharisees held to a man’s right to divorce his wife, whether for adultery or other reasons, and they believed that their position had basis in the Law of Moses. Their purpose was to trap Jesus, to put him into a position where he would compromise the authority of the Torah, the Law of Moses. They intended to “maintain a permissive divorce polity — and the more permissive the better.”[3]

Schürer summarizes the Jewish position on divorce thus: “divorce was relatively easy in those days and the Pharisees and rabbis intended to keep it so.”[4]

For the Pharisees, marriage was “a disposable contractual arrangement.” It was a temporary arrangement so long as it was convenient for the man.

The attitude of the Pharisees…

reminds us of a person who has just been granted a bank loan and then asks under what conditions he might be absolved from repaying it.[5]

Wives had little rights in Jewish society. Marriage was not for the mutual benefit of both the husband and the wife. Marriage was for the man, providing him the woman that he needed to have children and maintain the family line.

Jesus overturns the male-dominated view of marriage, showing the importance of the marital union, harmony, and love as part of the new creation in the kingdom of God.

1.3.     Answer a Question with a Question (10:3-5)

The Pharisees have laid a trap for Jesus, so they think, and Jesus does what he frequently does when confronted by his enemies. He turns the tables on them. They asked him a question, so he answered by asking them a question. They asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife.

Mark 10:3 ESV He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”

They came to put Jesus on the spot. Now they are on the spot. Jesus asks them a simply Bible question. They are the Pharisees. Surely they should know the answer. But no. They do not answer the right question. Jesus asked them what Moses commanded them. They answer not what Moses had commanded, but what Moses allowed:

Mark 10:4 ESV They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

Wrong answer! Jesus will give the right answer in the following verses, but first he responds to their incorrect answer.

Notice the hardness of their heart that is expressed in their very answer: “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

They are making reference to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Deuteronomy 24 was all about damage control. It was about limiting the sin and making a man think twice before dismissing his wife.

  • A husband had to give a reason for divorcing his wife, and that was the debate among the Jews, whether any reason was sufficient or “unchastity” was the only valid reason for divorce.
  • The husband had to give his wife a certificate of divorce showing that she was free from her husband.
  • However, the woman was “defiled” if she remarried.
  • The first husband could never under any circumstances take back his first wife after having married another.

Deuteronomy 24:4 clearly states,

Deuteronomy 24:4 ESV then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The original intention of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was not to encourage divorce, but to limit the damage done by hard unforgiving hearts. But the Jews had flipped the intention of the passage and were using it as a pretext for divorce: “If a man finds some indecency in her…”

Jesus confronts the Pharisees with their sin:

Mark 10:5 ESV And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

“The divine intention for marriage cannot be determined from a text about divorce.”[6]


“The divine intention for marriage cannot be determined from a text about divorce.” 
Divorce is the result of cardiosclerosis, the hardening of the heart. God is a God of forgiveness and he calls us to forgive one another. Not only does he call us to forgive; he requires it. At the conclusion of what we call the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, we read,

Matthew 6:14-15 ESV For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

We are not to be hardhearted and unforgiving:

Ephesians 4:32 ESV Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33). We are to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). Surely husbands and wives can obey the command to love each other (Ephesians 5:25, 28).

Colossians 3:13 ESV bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

2.      God’s Plan for Marriage (10:6-9)

Jesus had asked the Pharisees what Moses had commanded them. The Pharisees gave the wrong answer. They told not what Moses had commanded, but what Moses has permitted them because of the hardness of their hearts.

Now Jesus gives the Pharisees the correct answer to his question by taking them back to the beginning of creation and revealing God’s plan for marriage.

Mark 10:6-9 ESV But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, chapter 2. Genesis was one of the five books that were written by Moses. We find in Genesis 2 what Moses commanded concerning marriage, and what he commanded reveals God’s intention for marriage.

2.1.     The Foundation

Mark 10:6 ESV But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

2.1.1.  Marriage Has Its Foundation in Creation

We can learn so much from this one sentence: “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’” When did God make us male and female? In the beginning of creation. That tells us that man is not the result of millions of years of evolution. God created man in his own image on the sixth day of creation: “from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.”

We were created in the image of God. We are created for fellowship, just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been in eternal fellowship, loving one another through all eternity. God created us with a sense of morality, a sense of right and wrong, a desire for justice. He created us with the ability to communicate through the spoken and written word, and he has communicated his will for us through the prophets in the holy Scriptures. And in Genesis 2, we find God’s will for marriage.

2.1.2.  Marriage Is a Male-Female Relationship

God made us male and female. Male and female is God’s idea.

Genesis 2:18 NET The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.”

In defining the nature of marriage, Jesus takes us back to the original design: God made us male and female. There is a correspondence between male and female. In taking woman from the side of man, God made man “a helper fit for him” (ESV). Male and female fit each other.

In Matthew’s account in Matthew 19, Jesus says to the Pharisees,

Matthew 19:4 ESV … “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

“Have you not read?” Do you not know the Scriptures? Is it not clear to you? Is it not obvious that God has made us male and female? Is it not obvious that marriage is between a male and a female?

Marriage is the very first institution. The first man and the first woman were married. Before there was any church, before there were any employers, before there was any government, there was marriage. Marriage was not defined by the church, or by employers, or be the government. None of those institutions existence when the first marriage took place. God gave us marriage and God himself defined marriage.

Were Adam and Eve really married? Yes, they certainly were, for we read in

Genesis 2:25 ESV And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Seven times in the first four chapters of Genesis, Eve is called Adam’s wife (Genesis 2:24-25; 3:8, 17, 20-21; 4:1). And twice, Adam is called Eve’s “husband” (Genesis 3:6, 16).

Marriage is one of God’s gifts to mankind.

2.1.3.  Marriage Changes Our Orientation

Jesus said that since God made us male and female, there is something we must do:

Mark 10:6-7 ESV But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,

First, Marriage Is the Time to Leave

There is a new orientation. There is a new direction. The man is no longer oriented toward his father and mother. He grows up. He leaves home. Yes, he leaves his mommy and daddy!

The Fifth Commandment was that we are to honor our father and our mother. This is second only to honoring God, but Jesus here declares that the husband’s “allegiance to his wife in the union of marriage surpasses his allegiance to father and mother, making marriage second only to obedience to God in sacredness.”[7]

The commandment from the beginning was that a man is to leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. You are not married to your parents. Many marriages fail at this point. Instead of obeying the Word of God and leaving his parents, the man brings his wife into his parents’ home. Rather than trying to please his wife (1 Corinthians 7:33), he seeks to please his parents. The wife never gets the respect and consideration that she is supposed to have as the man’s wife because the man is torn between his parents and his wife. God commands the man to leave his parents and to establish a new home. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to be man. It’s time to leave home.

Second, Marriage Is the Time to Cleave — Hold Fast

In holding fast to his wife, the husband orients himself to his wife. Marriage is not about me. It is not about my fulfillment. Marriage orients me toward my spouse. Marriage teaches us how to love. The Apostle Paul quotes this very verse in Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:31 ESVTherefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Three times in this passage of Ephesians, Paul tells us that as husbands, we are to love our wives.

  1. We are to love our wives as Christ love the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
  2. We are to love our wives as our own bodies, nourishing and cherishing them (Ephesians 5:28).
  3. We are to love our wives as ourselves (Ephesians 5:33).

How does love behave? A man who loves his wife, how does he behave?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Romans 13:10 tells us that “Love does no wrong.” Love is not violent. Love does not mistreat. There is no room for wife abuse in the Christian home. The wife is not the husband’s child for him to discipline. The wife is not the husband’s property for him to mistreat or do as he pleases.

1 Peter 3:7 ESV Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Beware, husband! If you mistreat your wife, God will take her side!

Third, Marriage Is a New Creation

Mark 10:8 ESV and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.

The two become one. They are no longer two, but one. This is God’s idea, not man’s. God made us male and female, and it was God’s plan that in the context of holy matrimony the two become one. It is a new creation and is an image of Christ and the Church, the Bride of Christ.

What About Polygamy?

Notice again that God says that the two shall become one flesh. Some will argue for polygamy, that a man can have more than one wife. They will argue for polygamy on the basis of the Old Testament patriarchs like Jacob. They will even say that we need to restore the practice of the patriarchs because some of them had several wives. Since the patriarchs set the precedence of polygamy and had several wives, they say that men today should be able to have several wives.

If we looked to the lives of the patriarchs to establish a precedent for how we live today, we would also

  • take concubines like Abraham (Genesis 25:6) and Jacob (Genesis 35:22),
  • frequent prostitutes like Judah (Genesis 38:15-16),
  • deceive our parents like Jacob (Genesis 27:24), and
  • kill our enemies like Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5).

The Bible records what happened. But sinful men — even the patriarchs — did many things that were not the will of God.

As we read through the accounts of polygamous marriages in the Bible, it is clear that they were characterized by jealousy and conflict, every single one of them. Let the reader understand!

Jesus does not take us back to the patriarchs; he takes us back to the beginning. We do not look to the patriarchs to find God’s plan for marriage; we do not look to the example of fallen men to get our direction; we do as Jesus said, we go back to the beginning.

2.1.4.  God Is the Lord of Marriage

Here in Mark 10:9, we find the greatest difference between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jewish culture gave man the right to divorce his wife. Man was the lord of the marital relationship. He controlled it and could divorce his wife if he were not pleased.

But Jesus shows us that it is neither the man nor the woman who controls marriage. Rather, it is “God, who is the lord of marriage.”[8]

Mark 10:9 ESV What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage is not some contractual agreement between a man and a woman. It is not even an arrangement that is determined by the society or the culture at large. It is God himself who has instituted marriage and who joins a man and woman together in marriage. The man has no right to separate it. The woman has no right to separate it. And no external force has the right to separate what God has joined together.

3.      Jesus Summarizes His Teaching

The Jews assumed that divorce and remarriage was permitted in certain cases. Some thought that it was permitted in the case of adultery. Others thought that divorce and remarriage was allowed if the husband was no longer pleased with his wife.

Who did Jesus agree with? Neither. Jesus tells us that marriage is for life. One man. One woman. For life.

Mark 10:10-12 ESV And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus tells us that divorce and remarriage is adultery, regardless of whether it is initiated by the man or the woman.

3.1.     Counsel to Those in Difficulty

  1. If you are separated, the Apostle Paul summarizes the Lord’s teaching with two options: (1) stay single, or (2) be reconciled to your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
  2. If you have been through the pain of a divorce and are now remarried, you need to know that there is forgiveness with God. Jesus tells us in Mark 3:28 that all manner of sins will be forgiven.

1 John 1:9 ESV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Make the best of your present marriage (1 Corinthians 7:17-24).

3.2.     Counsel to Singles

  1. Only marry someone who loves God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Make sure that you have God’s approval and blessing.
  2. Don’t expect too much from your spouse. Remember that marriage is the union of two sinners, not two angels.
  3. Let holiness be the goal of your marriage.

3.3.     Final word to parents and families

Do not make it difficult for committed Christian young people to get married. Do not put terrible financial burdens on them. Do not put obstacles in their way. Do not sell your daughters like property. You give your Christian daughter to a Christian man who is worthy, who will lay his life down for her.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 


[1] In Mark we simply read, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” but this is surely an abbreviation for “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every cause?” just as we speak of the Second Coming (of Jesus) or civil rights (for minorities) or equal rights (for women). Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5542-5543). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5529-5532).

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5549-5551).

[4] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5549-5551).

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5553-5554).

[6] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark . Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5593-5594).

[8] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark . Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

Mark 09v30-50, Defining Greatness on the Way to the Cross

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngHow do you define greatness? Being at the top of your game? Being number one? The world is looking for greatness and defines it from the top down. Jesus says that we’ve got it upside down. He defines greatness from the bottom up. Do you want to be great?

1.      Looking for Greatness in All the Wrong Places

The desire for greatness can be found in most every one of us, in one way or another. We may define greatness and success in different ways, but we have a deep need for greatness, for significance. We seek meaning and purpose in life. It is often suggested that we may pursue greatness in trying to find something bigger and greater than ourselves.

Historically, the rulers of Europe were often given the attribute “the Great.” There was Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.), Charlemagne (“Charles the Great”, d. 814), Frederic the Great of Prussia (1712–1786), Catherine the Great of Russia (1729–1796), and Napoleon the Great (1769-1821), as well as many others.

In Bible times there was Cyrus the Great (c. 600–530 B.C.), kind of Persia; the Syrian ruler, Antiochus the Great (223-187 B.C.), and Herod the Great (73/74-4 B.C.).

Jesus spoke of these “great ones” when he said,

Mark 10:42 ESV … “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.

1.1.   Greatness according to the World

You do not have to be a ruler to pursue greatness. Perhaps you define greatness as being at the top of your game. Perhaps you want to be a great athlete, or a great teacher, or a great administrator, or a great leader. Perhaps you define greatness in terms of financial success, living in a nice home, eating the finest of food, and having people wait on you hand and foot.

Perhaps you define greatness in terms of intelligence, or scientific achievement, or as an artist. Or you may define greatness in terms of “the rich and the famous.”

According to the Wikipedia,

Greatness is a concept of a state of superiority affecting a person or object. Greatness can also be referred to individuals who possess a natural ability to be better than all others. The concept carries the implication that the particular person or object, when compared to others of a similar type, has clear advantage over others. As a descriptive term it is most often applied to a person or their work…[1]

Here greatness is defined in terms of comparison, being better than others, having abilities that are better than others, have a clear advantage over others.

This is certainly how the disciples understood greatness. In Mark 9:34, the disciples “had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest.” They are each arguing for their own superiority over the others. They are vying for position.

Then we read…

Mark 9:33-34 ESV And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

They were “on the way.” “On the way” to where? Jesus and his disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem.

The disciples could not get beyond their ideas of greatness. In spite of all that Jesus had told them, and in spite of their fears and apprehensions, they knew that they were “on the way” to Jerusalem, and they remained hopeful. They are en route for Jerusalem, and “…the journey to Jerusalem has been fanning the flames of messianic and eschatological hopes in their minds. Surely the kingdom would break forth in Jerusalem, with Jesus — and they with him — at” the head of the kingdom![2]  But Jesus was on the way to the cross.

1.2.   Fighting for Greatness

So the disciples are arguing about which one of them will be the greatest in the kingdom.

This passage is thick with irony. Jesus has just announced a second time to the group of his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem not to be crowned as king, but to suffer, and to be rejected, and to die — and the disciples just do not get it.

Let’s retrace briefly what has happened in the last few sections of Mark. In Mark 8, Jesus asked his disciples who they believed him to be. Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ (8:29). Then Jesus told them plainly for the first time that as the Christ, he would suffer many things, be rejected and killed, and after three days rise again (8:30). Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, but then he rebuked Jesus because suffering and death were incompatible with his understanding of what Christ the Messiah would do.

In turn, Jesus sharply rebuked Peter for expressing not the thoughts of God, but those of men. And then, Jesus turns everything upside down

Mark 8:34-35 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Here is the paradox of the gospel: If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you lose your life for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s, you will save it. Save it and you lose it. Lose it to save it.

One week later, Jesus took Peter and James and John up to the top of a high mountain where he was transfigured before them with the glory that was his before the creation of the universe. Surely following Jesus would be worth the risk. Coming down from the mountain, Jesus tells those three disciples to tell no one “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).

Now in Mark 9, Jesus spends time teaching all 12 disciples a second time about what he was going to do.

Mark 9:30-31 ESV They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

This is not public teaching; this is a private teaching session. As Jesus is en route for Jerusalem, he does not want anyone to know his traveling plans. Jesus does not want any interruptions from outsiders as he explains to them what will happen to him. This is a private teaching session with his 12 disciples, teaching them lessons which they must — by all means — learn.

The first time, Jesus had spoken of suffering many things, of being rejected, and of being killed. This time he adds an element: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”[3]

  • Jesus will be delivered — betrayed — by Judas, one of his own disciples (14:10-11, 18, 21, 41-42).
  • He will be delivered by the high priest’s council into the hands of Pilate, the governor. They will force Pilate’s hand so that he decides to execute Jesus (10:33; 15:1, 10).
  • “Pilate will deliver Jesus into the hands of the soldiers who will crucify him (15:15).”
  • Yes, the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of sinners (14:14). All of “humanity falls into this category.”

“But there is another hand behind all this handing over. It is the hand of God, whose purposes are being fulfilled unbeknownst to any of the actors in the drama.”[4]

After the resurrection of Christ, it is clear from the preaching of the apostles and from the New Testament epistles that God had delivered his one and only Son as a sacrifice for our sin. The Apostle Paul says it like this in Romans:

Romans 8:32 NAU He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Jesus told them plainly that he was going to be delivered and killed and after three days, rise from the dead.

  • Jesus is talking about his suffering; they are arguing about their own significance.
  • Jesus is talking about being rejected; they are arguing about reigning.
  • Jesus is teaching them about his death; they are arguing about domination.

The disciples simply embody man’s normal and sinful ambitions. The world defines greatness as

  • Getting to the top
  • Being number one
  • Securing wealth, power, and position

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

How could they understand what Jesus was saying? What Jesus was saying was totally incompatible with their notions of greatness. They were not looking for a crucified Christ. That was an oxymoron, a contradiction of terms. The cross was incompatible with their notion of the crown and the kingdom. How could they possibly understand? Jesus was not fitting into their categories. He was not conforming to their way of thinking. But our way of thinking should not be like the world’s way of thinking because the world has it all wrong. That’s why the Apostle Paul tell us,

Romans 12:2 NLT Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Jesus has now told his disciples twice that he was on the way to the cross… “he was teaching his disciples…”

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

They did not understand, but apparently they understood something, for they were afraid to ask him. Perhaps they remembered before when Peter had rebuked Christ and had been in turned rebuked for setting his mind on the things of man instead of on the things of God (Mark 8:33).

We recreate a gospel to suit us, a gospel of health and wealth and prosperity. Like the disciples, we do not want to hear about denying ourselves, or suffering, or rejection, or death to self, or losing our life so that we may yet save it.

We recreate our gospel to suit ourselves, but it is not a full gospel; it is a diminished gospel. It is a gospel that tells us to repeat a prayer and all will be okay. Get yourself baptized and you have a sure ticket to heaven. Make sure you go to church on the right day of the week and all will be okay. But that is our contemporary gospel and not the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the gospel of the apostles, and not the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation.

2.      Greatness according to Jesus

Greatness according to the world is diametrically opposed to greatness according to Jesus. The world lives according to the principle dominance, “looking out for number one,” being first in line.

Mark 9:33-34 ESV And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

2.1.   Jesus Redefines Greatness as Serving, Not Dominance

So Jesus sits down and takes the position of a teacher:

Mark 9:35 ESV And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Once again Jesus is turning their categories upside down. Jesus has already declared that whoever would save his life must lose it for Christ’s sake and for the gospel’s. Save it and you lose it. Lose it to save it.

2.2.1. First is last, last is first

Now Jesus gives a second paradox: To be first, you must be last.

Mark 9:35 ESV … ”If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

You want to be number one? Then you must be last. Do you want to be great? Then you must be last of all and the servant of all.

Jesus is not telling us that we should not pursue greatness; he is redefining greatness. We think that greatness is being at the top; Jesus says that greatness is serving someone at the bottom. We think that greatness is going first; Jesus says that greatness is letting everyone go ahead of us. We think that greatness is ruling over others; Jesus says that greatness is serving others.

We are so concerned about pride of place. The Rabbinic writings (the writings of the Jewish rabbis) “frequently comment on the seating order in Paradise, for example, and argue that the just would sit nearer to the throne of God than even the angels.”[5]

We talk about “bigman” and even in the church we introduce guest preachers as “a great man of God.” We are to give honor to whom honor is due, but we disobey Christ and dishonor God when we exalt man in the presence of God. This is what Jesus said about the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:6-12 NLT And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ 8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The disciples are fighting for first place in the kingdom, but they have not understood that to go up, you must go down. If you want to go high, you must go low. If you want to be great, you must be a servant.

How horrible it is in the church today when people fight for position and power and dominance! How ugly it is when pastors campaign like politicians to get the votes of church members! That is not the way of servanthood. That is not the way of the cross of Christ who said,

Mark 8:34 ESV … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

On the other side of the cross, perhaps the disciples had an excuse for not understanding, but we are on this side of the cross and the resurrection. We are on this side of Calvary. We have the New Testament Scriptures which had not yet been written, not even the first word. The disciples may perhaps be excused for failing to understand, but we have no excuse.

Mark 9:35-37 ESV And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

2.2.2.   Jesus Illustrates Greatness by Taking a Child in His Arms

Jesus took a child and put the child in the midst of them. Here in the middle of the disciples was a child. Children were of no account in Roman and Jewish societies. Today, more and more, to our great shame, children are becoming throwaway commodities. But Jesus not only took the child, but he took the child in his arms. He cherished and loved the child.

Now Jesus was not using the child as an example of humility. No, the child was “an example of the ‘little’ and insignificant ones whom followers of Jesus are to receive.[6]

Mark 9:37 ESV “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Disciples are thus not to be like children, but to be like Jesus who embraces them. It is Jesus, not the child, who here demonstrates what it means to be “the servant of all.”[7]

2.3.   Jesus Redefines Greatness as Openness, Not Exclusion

The second worldly way of seeking of greatness is through exclusion. This is greatness by monopoly. This is being great because you have eliminated the competition. You have become the only source for the commodity that you offer.

Mark 9:38 ESV John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

Let’s note that…

  1. This person was casting out demons.
  2. He was casting out demons in the name of Jesus, that is, with the authority of Christ.
  3. He was successfully doing something that the disciples had just failed to do earlier in this chapter when a father brought his son to the disciples to have them cast out the demon, but they were not able (9:18).
  4. John tried to stop this man because he was not one of their group: “because he was not following us.”

This is seeking greatness by excluding all others, but this is not the way of Christ.

Mark 9:39-41 ESV But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Remember that John was part of the inner circle. Peter and James and John were the only disciples that Jesus took with him when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Those three were the only disciples to witness the transfiguration of Christ on the mountaintop. John has begun to think that he is part of an exclusive group. He was one of the twelve. He likes being part of that special group. And he wants his group to be exclusive. He wants them to be the only ones.

And then John sees someone else doing what the disciples are called to do. He sees someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus had previously sent out the 12 disciples and had given them authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7, 13). Perhaps this man had seen the disciples casting out demons in Jesus’ name. He believes and does the same thing: he begins casting out demons in Jesus’ name. John sees him casting out demons in Jesus’ name and tries to stop him because he did not belong to their group.

Mark 9:39-40 NLT “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

Some churches claim to be the only true church. They want to exclude all others. That is one of the marks of a false cult. Some churches claim to have apostolic authority. Apostolic authority does not come from apostolic succession or having the right person lay his hands on you; apostolic authority come from believing and preaching what Christ and his apostles preached.

2.3.1. The One Who Is Not Against Christ Is for Christ (9:38-40)

This is all about Jesus. It is not about me or you or my church or your church. It’s about Jesus. The question is not, “What church do you belong to?” The question is, “What Christ do you preach? What gospel do you preach? Are you preaching the Word of God or the vision of a man?” You may not be a member of my church or of my denomination, but if you are following my Lord, if you are preaching the Word of God, if you are proclaiming Christ and him crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, then I rejoice that Christ is being preached! The first missionaries that came to this country and laid down their lives, they did not preach their church; they preached Christ. They did not preach a certain day; they preached Christ. The question is not whether you are Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or Nazarene or Anglican or Assemblies of God or apostolic. The question is, “Do you know Christ? Do you preach Christ?”

2.3.2. The One Who Serves Christ Will Be Rewarded by Christ (Mark 9:41)

Mark 9:41 ESV For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

“Whoever” means you. Jesus is telling the disciples that anyone who identifies with Christ and shows his allegiance to Christ by serving those who serve Christ, that person will not lose his reward. Jesus sees. Jesus knows. He will “reward the smallest and humblest acts of service done to others” in his name.[8]

2.3.3. Warning: Do Not Cause Believers to Stumble

Jesus promises a reward to the humblest believer who serves Christ by serving others. But he warns us not to cause these believers to stumble. We must not hinder the humblest of believers in their service for Christ.

2.3.3.1.           Learn the Lesson of the Great Millstone (Mark 9:42).[9]

Mark 9:42 ESV “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Do we see the danger? Forbidding people to do what they can for Christ may cause them to stumble. It would be better to be drowned in the depth of the ocean than to offend the humblest believer in Christ.

2.3.3.2.           Learn the Lesson of Self-Mutilation (Mark 9:43-48)

But then Jesus expands the warning. He tells us that saving faith is a fighting faith. We must pursue holiness “with passion and discipline.”[10] Jesus speaks of our hands, our feet, and our eyes: what we do, where we go, and what we see:

Mark 9:43-48 ESV And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 46 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

Jesus uses the language of hyperbole, or the language of exaggeration because the importance of what he is saying cannot be exaggerated. Cutting off our hands and feet, and tearing out our eyes will not solve the problem because Jesus has already told us that sin is deeply rooted in the heart (7:21). But Jesus is telling us that we must be violent with the sin in our lives. It must be cut out. Three times he tells us that it is better to be crippled, lame, and one-eyed than to be thrown into hell. He tells us that hell is a horrible place where the fire never goes out and the worm never dies.

What are you doing to get the sin out of your life? You must kill sin or it will kill you.

Romans 8:12-13 NLT Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

2.3.3.3.           Learn the Lesson of Good Salt (Mark 9:49-50)

Mark 9:49 ESV For everyone will be salted with fire.

Jesus picks up the word “fire” and tells us that everyone will be salted with fire. The unbeliever will be salted with “the perpetual fires of final judgment in hell.” The believer will be salted with “the preserving and refining fires of trials and suffering that mark the road to true greatness.”[11]

Then Jesus adds,

Mark 9:50 ESV Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?

Salt preserves, but “unless we maintain the purity of our own lives (plucking out the eye, etc.) and are purified by the flames of testing, and remain faithful to Christ, our lives will have no preserving influence on this corrupt world.”[12]

Finally, Jesus tells his disciples,

Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

The disciples had been arguing over who was the greatest. They were vying for position and superiority. Jesus showed them that greatness is not found at the top; it is found at the bottom, serving one another.

It is no wonder that the early Christians were described as those who had turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Conclusion: An Upside Down World or a Right Side Up World?

The world thinks that Christian values are upside down, but in reality, the world is upside down. Jesus came to set it right side up. The world fights and clamors to get to the top, but Jesus showed that the way to be exalted is to humble ourselves.

Philippians 2:4-11 ESV Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What kind of a world would this be if

  • Instead of trying to get to the top, we began serving those on the bottom?
  • Instead of lifting up ourselves, we would humble ourselves
  • Instead of putting people down, we tried to lift them up
  • Instead of seeking to be served by others, we served others
  • Instead of trying to be number one, we were last
  • Instead of trying to stop others who are serving Christ, we rejoiced that the Gospel was being preached.

What kind of a world would this be? You can begin to make a difference today. You can demonstrate true greatness.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greatness

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 9:34.

[3] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 421.

[4] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 421.

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 9:36-37.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 9:36-37.

[8] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014.

[9] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:42

[10] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:43

[11] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:49

[12] Sinclair Ferguson in Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:49

What Is Pentecost?

Acts 2 Pentecost.png

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngA very happy Pentecost Sunday to you! Today is Pentecost Sunday and Christians around the globe will be celebrating this event. Why is the Day of Pentecost so important in the life of the church?

Pentecost is the message that God has a promise for you! Long ago, God made a promise that was so wonderful that the Israelites were to celebrate it on a certain Sunday every year until the promise was fulfilled. This promise was rooted in the yearly Feast of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, one of the great celebrations in the Old Testament. It was harvest time! It was a time of rejoicing at what God had provided for his people. It was a time to celebrate the blessing of the God who provides. It was also an anticipation looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s marvelous promise that is for you and for everyone who asks for this promise, this gift of God our heavenly Father.

The Feast of Pentecost was established in the Law of Moses. 1,445 before Christ, the Law stipulated that Pentecost was to be celebrated every year until it was fulfilled.

The word Pentecost comes from the Greek word pentêkostos (πεντηκοστός) which means “fiftieth.” So the Feast of Pentecost took place on the 50th day after the offering of the firstfruits during Passover week. That was seven full weeks after the offering of the firstfruits. In fact, the Feast of Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament. It took place the day after the completion of seven weeks following the offering of the firstfruits. Seven weeks of seven days is 49 days. The next day is the 50th day. So this feast has two names: the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Pentecost.

We see that the ideas of the fiftieth day (for Pentecost) and the period of seven weeks (for the Feast of Weeks), these two ideas come together when God instituted Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23. God had said,

Lev. 23:15-16 ESV You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.

These two celebrations, the offering of the firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost, took place the day after the Sabbath. In other words, these two celebrations took place on a Sunday. The offering of the firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost both took place on a Sunday every year from the giving of the Law of Moses until the fulfillment of the Law in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Right in the very Law of Moses, God had indicated that he was going to do something marvelous for his people. The offering of the firstfruits the first Sunday after Passover pointed to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection. Just as the firstfruits were the promise of the coming harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is the promise of our future resurrection.

But 50 days later came the harvest. Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks. Count seven full weeks from the offering of the firstfruits to the day after the seventh Sabbath. On that Sunday, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promise of the Father was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

On that very Sunday, the promise was fulfilled and the Apostle Peter preached,

Acts 2:39 ESV For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

That means that the Day of Pentecost, the day that we are celebrating today, is a reminder that God has made a promise that is for you.

So just what is this promise?

1.        Pentecost Is a Fulfillment of the Father’s Promise

Jesus refers to the giving of the Holy Spirit as the promise of the Father. You will remember that Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover. He was raised from the dead on the third day and appeared to his disciples for 40 days, teaching them many things about the kingdom of God. Then, shortly before ascending to the right hand of God, he reminded the disciples about the promise of the Father.

At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told his disciples,

Luke 24:49 ESV And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Again, we find the promise in the very first chapter of the Book of Acts:

Acts 1:4-5 ESV And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Now this is most interesting. Jesus reminded the disciples, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus makes a distinction between being baptized with water and being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Being baptized with water is not the same thing as being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

This is the same thing that John the Baptist had said:

Mark 1:8 ESV I have baptized you with water, but [Jesus] he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Now, 40 days after his resurrection, as Jesus is preparing to ascend to the Father’s right hand, he tells the disciples,

Luke 24:49 ESV And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

This promise of the Father, this gift that would be given the Day of Pentecost, has something to do with the Holy Spirit, and it has something to do with power for service. This is what Jesus told the disciples just before ascending into heaven:

Acts 1:8 ESV But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Why is this the promise of the Father? Why does Jesus refer to the giving of the Holy Spirit and the empowering for service, why does he call this the promise of the Father?

This is the promise of the Father because in the Old Testament, God the Father had promised that the time when come when he would give the Holy Spirit to his people.

Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father. On Ascension Day, which we celebrated just 10 days ago, before their very eyes, Jesus was taken up bodily into heaven. The disciples then returned to Jerusalem. They entered into the upper room where they were staying. About 120 disciples gathered in that upper room and devoted themselves to prayer. For 10 days they prayed, waiting for the promise of the Father.

Then we read in Acts 2,

Acts 2:1-4 ESV When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It was the Day of Pentecost. Jews from all over the world had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the event, but nothing like this had ever happened before! Jews from all over the world, who spoke many different languages, were now hearing Jews from Galilee, the disciples of Jesus, speaking in these different languages.

Acts 2:6-12 NLT When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. 7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee,… And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

The Jews had been celebrating the Day of Pentecost for nearly 1,500 years, but this was a Day of Pentecost like no other. This was the fulfillment of the promise of the Father. “What can this mean?” the people asked. “What is this all about?”

It was then that the Apostle Peter preached the first Christian sermon. There, on that Sunday, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained that God had fulfilled his promise by pouring out his Holy Spirit on them.

Acts 2:16-18 NLT …what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.

This was the promise of the Father! He would pour out his Spirit on all people. He does not mean that everyone would receive the Spirit, but that the gift of the Holy Spirit would be for everyone who called upon the name of the Lord. God would pour his Spirit on them and they would prophesy.

In the Old Testament, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was generally limited to three classes of people. The Spirit’s anointing was for prophets, for priests, and for kings. But God had promised that the day would come when he would pour out his Spirit on all people. The gift would not be limited by gender, by age, or by social class:

  1. The gift of the Spirit would not be limited by gender; God would give his Spirit to men and women: “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.”
  2. The gift of the Spirit would be not be limited by age; it would be for the young and the old: “Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
  3. The gift of the Spirit would not be limited by class or level of society: “I will pour out my Spirit on my male servants and female servants.”

The gift of the Spirit would be available for all who called upon the name of the Lord to be saved. This was the new life of living by the Spirit instead of living by the Law.

Before Christ came, people tried to please God by following the Law. It was a list of rules that they tried to obey. It was all on the outside. The people tried to change their lives from the outside in. The outside-in approach started with the list of rules, some 613 laws, that people tried to observe, trying to change their hearts from the outside.

But God had promised that a new day was coming, a time when he would change people not from the outside in, but from the inside out. God would change people not by telling them to obey a written code of laws, but by empowering them by the Holy Spirit who would change them — and us — from the inside out.

Yes, there would be an outward change, but the change begins on the inside, not on the outside. This is the promise of the Father:

This is that promise in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 31:31-33 NLT “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

God had promised through the prophet Ezekiel,

Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

So Pentecost reminds us that the Christian life is not following a list of rules and laws. The true Christian is one who is born of the Spirit of God.

2.        Pentecost Is the Power to Serve

Pentecost is also the power to serve. Jesus had promised the disciples,

Acts 1:8 ESV But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective in ministry. You and I need the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective for Christ. “You will receive power,” Jesus said, “and you will be my witnesses…” We receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ witnesses. We are witnesses to Jesus Christ. We preach Christ.

This power of the Holy Spirit is seen in the boldness that the disciples had in witnessing for Christ. Over and over again, we read about the Holy Spirit coming upon the believers and how they spoke about Christ with great boldness.

On that great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers, Peter preached with great boldness. He confronted the Jews with their sin:

Acts 2:23 ESV this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

But God had reversed the decrees of men and had raised Jesus from the dead:

Acts 2:32 ESV This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.

There in the very city where Jesus had been crucified and buried, Peter declared with boldness that God had raised him up. Furthermore, Peter said, “of that we all are witnesses.” Christianity is not some philosophy or some interpretation of life. Christianity is history. The gospel did not begin somewhere else. It began in Jerusalem where Jesus died and was raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds showing himself to be alive by many proofs (Acts 1:1-3).

Jesus died. He was buried. He was raised from the dead. And after 40 days, he ascended to the right hand of God. Then Peter declared,

Acts 2:32-33 ESV Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

The gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was a result of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God. He received the promise of the Father as a result of his finished work of salvation. And he poured out the Holy Spirit on the 120 disciples in the upper room.

But was the gift just for those early disciples?

3.        Pentecost Is a Message that the Gift of the Holy Spirit Is for All Peoples Everywhere

On that Day of Pentecost, Peter was preaching to thousands of people who were gathered in Jerusalem. They had seen the effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They had heard as Peter preached to them the gospel.

Acts 2:36-37 ESV Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

They have been convicted of their sin against God. “What shall we do?” they asked. Yes, there is something to do. Salvation is not automatic. It is not the result of being born in a Christian nation or of being born of Christian parents or of going to church.

Acts 2:38 ESV And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter said that the first thing that we must do is to repent. These people were “cut to the heart.” They felt the guilt of their sin. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would convict people of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

We need that work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Until we see and feel the depth of our sin against God, we can never be saved. If we think that we are pretty good compared to others, then we are like the Pharisees who were self-righteousness. If we justify ourselves, we will never by justified by God. But if we see and feel that all our righteousness is as filthy rags before God, if we feel our uncleanness, if we feel our guilt before a holy God, then the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts producing conviction of sin and godly sorrow.

2 Corinthians 7:10 NIVO Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Repentance involves confession of sin, admitting before God that we are guilty. It is a change of mind. We no longer want to do the things that we used to do. We are now ashamed of the things that we did (Romans 6:21)! So repentance means turning away from our sin. It is an about-face. It is walking the other way.

“Repent,” Peter said, “and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Baptism means that we have a change of loyalty. We are now baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ means that we are baptized in the authority of Christ. We are baptized as Christ told us to be baptized. And he told us in Matthew 28:19 that we are to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is our Lord and Master. By baptism, we identify with him in his death, his burial, and his resurrection. We are raised with him to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:1-3).

Now Peter says, “Repent and be baptized and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We have already seen that water baptism is not the same as the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And yet, it is normal for Christians to be baptized into the Holy Spirit for this promise was not just for the 120 disciples. This promise is for us:

Acts 2:39 ESV For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

The promise of the Spirit was not limited to the 120 disciples. It was not just for the age of the apostles. The gift did not die out at the end of the first century. Peter clearly says that the promise of the Spirit is for all of us, for all whom the Lord our God will call.

4.        Pentecost Is a Celebration of the Birthday of the Church

Acts 2:40-42 ESV And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Peter and the disciples had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had said. They had received power to be his witnesses. With great power and boldness, Peter bore witness to Jesus and the gospel of Christ. The Holy Spirit moved upon the crowd with conviction of sin and three thousand souls were added to the church.

On that Sunday, that Day of Pentecost,

  • The Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers,
  • The first Christian sermon was preached,
  • Three thousand people were added to the Church

On that Sunday, the Church was born. And one this Sunday, we celebrate the birthday of the Church and the fact that Jesus Christ is building his Church.

5.        Pentecost Is a Reminder that Christ Will Continue to Build His Church

In his book Witness Essentials, Dan Meyer lists some encouraging statistics about the growth of the church around the world:[1]

  • In 1900 Korea had no Protestant church. Today, there are over 7,000 churches in just the city of Seoul, South Korea.
  • At the end of the 19th century, the southern portion of Africa was only 3 percent Christian. Today, 63 percent of the population is Christian, while membership in the churches in Africa is increasing by 34,000 people per day.
  • In India, 14 million of the 140 million members of the “untouchable” caste have become Christians.
  • More people in the Islamic world have come to Christ in the last 25 years than in the entire history of Christian missions.
  • In Islamic Indonesia, the percentage of Christians is now so high (around 15 percent) that the Muslim government will no longer print statistics.
  • In China, it is estimated that there are now more self-avowed disciples of Jesus than members of the Communist party. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that China will soon have more Christians than any country.
  • Across the planet, followers of Jesus are increasing by more than eighty thousand per day.
  • 510 new churches form every day.

Conclusion

On this Day of Pentecost, we remember

  1. The Father has fulfilled his promise by the Holy Spirit to those who ask.
  2. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective witnesses of Jesus Christ.
  3. The message of Pentecost is for all believers everywhere.
  4. We celebrate today the birthday of the Church.
  5. Christ will continue to build his Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

 

[1] Daniel Meyer, Witness Essentials (InterVarsity Press, 2012), pp. 32-33

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

Mark 09v14-29, “Weak Faith and a Strong Savior”

27757-Jesus-healing-stainedglass.1200w.tn.jpgIntroduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat would you do if you have a big bill that was due, but not enough money in the bank to cover the expense? You might be out of luck.

What if you needed a miracle from God, but did not have enough faith to cover it? That’s the story that we will consider today, the story of the man and his boy and the unclean spirit in Mark 9. As we pick up the story in Mark 9:14, we find the scribes arguing with some of Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus was not on the best of terms with the scribes. Things had gotten off to a rocky start when Jesus, this thirty-something young prophet who had not gone through the training that they had had, turned out to be a vastly superior teacher than they were. The common people had been astonished at Jesus’ teaching

Mark 1:22 ESV … for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes [Mark tells us].

No doubt, this comparison that the people made between Jesus and the scribes had not gone unnoticed by the scribes themselves. They would not have appreciated being unfavorably compared to a carpenter’s son. Jealous as they were of people’s approval and praise, they tried to discredit Jesus before the people at every opportunity.

  • When Jesus forgave sins, the scribes thought that he was guilty of blasphemy (Mark 2:6-7).
  • Trying to undermine his influence, the scribes asked people why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:16).
  • When Jesus cast out demons, the scribes accused him of being possessed by Satan, and acting as an agent of Satan and using the power of Satan to cast out demons (Mark 3:22).

In another attempt to smear Jesus, the scribes asked him publicly,

Mark 7:5 ESV …”Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled [unwashed] hands?”

Now in Mark 9, Jesus comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter and James and John to find the scribes arguing with his disciples. Just one week before, Jesus had told his disciples what the scribes were going to do to him:

Mark 8:31 ESV And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Now Jesus comes down from the mountain where he had been transfigured before three of his disciples, and talked with Moses and Elijah. You might say that it was a mountaintop experience, a spiritual high, especially for the disciples, but now they are returning to the valley below.

How often we would like to stay on the mountaintop! To experience only the highs of life, the wonderful times whether of spiritual delight or relaxation in God’s beautiful creation. That was certainly Peter’s idea when he suggested that they stay on the mountain: “Let’s build three tabernacles,” he said, “one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!”

That’s when a cloud covered them, Moses and Elijah disappeared, they they heard the voice of His Father declare to Peter and James and John,

Mark 9:7 ESV … “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

As Solomon wrote,

Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

There is a time for the mountaintop, and there is a time to come back down to the valley,

  • a time to be in the presence of God, and a time to do the work of God,
  • a time to be alone with God, and a time to do good to people wherever we find them.

Mountaintops are beautiful places. They change our perspective. And the valley can be messy, because lives can be messy, but Jesus came to clean up our messy lives.

We can divide this story in to four scenes:

SCENE ONE

As Jesus and his three closest disciples come down the mountain, they find that a great crowd has gathered around his other disciples and the scribes are arguing with them. The scribes had no doubt come looking for Jesus to find evidence to discredit him.

But there was also a man, a father, who had come looking for Jesus for a very different reason. This father had a son who was demon possessed. He came seeking deliverance for his boy. Not finding Jesus, he turned to the nine disciples who had not gone up the mountain with Jesus. He asked the disciples to cast the demon out of his son, but they could not.

Now the scribes get involved. They had come to discredit Jesus, but not finding him, they will discredit his disciples. The disciples had failed to cast out the demon, so it is very probable that the scribes were asking the disciples what right they had to try to cast out demons. Note that the scribes made no attempt to cast out the demon. They will argue and condemn, but they do not even attempt to help those in need.

When Jesus came down from the mountain, he found the scribes arguing with his disciples.

Mark 9:14-16 ESV And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

SCENE TWO

Mark 9:17-18 ESV And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

Now this is a terrible condition and we need to be very clear about the condition of this boy. We need to have a clear biblical understanding of sickness and afflictions. We live in a Genesis 3 world. The world that God created was a perfect world, but in Genesis 3, sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam. Sin bring its consequences. The world was cursed with thorns and thistles, and the eventual payoff of sin is death.

Sickness is part of the world in which we live. The common cold, malaria, AIDS, birth defects, and epilepsy are all the result of Adam’s sin. As descendants of Adam, we all share in the consequences of his great fall. We are all subject to sickness, and unless Jesus Christ returns before too long, we will all surely die.

Sickness may or may not be the result of personal sin. There are other passages in the Bible that indicate that sometimes sickness is the result of sin (1 Corinthians 11:30), but that is generally NOT the case:

  • We read about a man who was born blind in John 9. The disciples thought that somehow he or his parents had sinned so that he was born blind. Jesus plainly says,

John 9:3 ESV Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

  • The prophet Elisha died of a sickness (2 Kings 13:14) but his dead bones raised a man from the dead (2 Kings 13:21).
  • Timothy had frequent stomach ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).
  • The Apostle Paul’s associate Trophimus was sick (2 Timothy 4:20).
  • Another associate names Epaphroditus nearly died of a sickness, but God had mercy on him and Paul (Philippians 2:5-27).

So we should not make the mistake of blaming the sick person for his sickness.

A second principle should be noted here. As we read through the New Testament, we see Jesus healing many sick people of various diseases. We also see him casting out demons. Sometimes the demons have caused a severe handicap such as blindness or deafness. But at other times, and we should say most of the time, the handicap is simply physical and is not at all caused by demons.

So let us NOT make the mistake of thinking that a severe handicap is the result of demon possession. That was not the case of

  • Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever (1:31)
  • The leper who was cleansed (1:41)
  • The lame man who took up his bed and walked (2:12)
  • The man with the withered hand (3:5)
  • The woman with the issue of blood (5:29)
  • The man who was deaf and had a speech impediment (7:32-35)

To that we can add the case of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes a person to have seizures. It is a terrible affliction and in most cases is purely physiological. I had a friend in Bible college who suffered from epilepsy. He was studying for the ministry. I simply mention this to say that we must not conclude that epilepsy is a spiritual condition.

  1. Sickness and dying is part of our human condition. Christians and non-Christians alike get sick and die. Let us not think that sickness is necessarily the result of personal sin. It is part of human existence.
  2. Severe disorders and handicaps should not be attributed to evil spirits. While demons can cause certain terrible conditions such as deafness, it would be a terrible mistake and a terrible injustice to assume that such conditions are the result of demonic activity.

Now, I have said all that because this boy had an unclean spirit that caused him to be mute and deaf and epileptic. Let us be quick to hear and slow to speak before such conditions. Let us not jump to conclusions about the cause and thereby inflict more pain on the person who suffers.

Let’s look at the text again:

Mark 9:17-18 ESV And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

The boy has suffered greatly. The father is crushed over his condition, and in desperation came looking for Jesus. When he could not find Jesus, he turned to the disciples for help: “I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

SCENE THREE

Mark 9:19 ESV And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”

The failure of the disciples to cast out the demon is associated with a lack of faith. And yet, Jesus does not single out his disciples; he speaks of the “faithless generation.” But how does one have faith for such a need?

Everyone was overwhelmed by the problem. The boy was powerless to resist the attacks of the unclean spirit. The father could do nothing to stop the convulsions. The disciples were unable to cast out the demon. What to do?

“Bring him to me,” Jesus said.

Mark 9:20 ESV And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

Things do not always get better the moment you come to Jesus.

The initial result of the effective presence of Jesus is not peace, however, but conflict; not resurrection, but suffering. Eduard Schweizer’s insight is correct: “This indicates how the presence of God can produce storm and stress before anything constructive is accomplished.”[1]

What the father has described, Jesus now sees. They bring the boy to Jesus, but the moment the evil spirit saw Jesus,

Mark 9:20 NLT … it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

Out of compassion for the boy and his father, Jesus asked,

Mark 9:21 ESV … “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.

The father further explains,

Mark 9:22 ESV And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him…

Make no mistake about it. Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He comes to destroy and pervert the image of God in each of us. But Jesus “came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

The question allows the father to tell his story that the boy has been afflicted since childhood, with near fatal effect. But it also allows the father to declare his heart. The question of Jesus invites the father to come to him as a total person, with hard facts and with human hopes.[2]

The boy’s father had come in hope of finding Jesus. Instead, he found the disciples. It mattered not to him whether it was Jesus or his disciples who cast out the demon; he was desperate for help. But when the disciples were unable to cast out the demon, the father’s faith and hope were shaken.

Mark 9:22 ESV And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him [the man said]. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

“If you can do anything,” the man says! The problem is not what Jesus can do. Jesus can expel demons with a word, but producing faith is a much harder matter![3] Lack of faith in Jesus Christ is a greater obstacle than demons. We are not simply talking about having faith, or more faith, or great faith as if faith were some power that we could acquire and direct. True faith is simply trusting in God. True faith has an object and that object is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:23 ESV And Jesus said to him, “’If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

God is not limited to do his work in us except by our lack of belief that he can do it. In his hometown, Nazareth,

Mark 6:5-6 ESV … he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief…

Jesus calls the man to put his faith in him. He had said to the hemorrhaging woman,

Mark 5:34 ESV … “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Jesus had said to Jairus, who had just learned that his daughter was dead,

Mark 5:36 ESV …Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Now Jesus calls upon this father with faltering faith to put what faith he has in an all-sufficient Savior. You may have weak faith, but you have a strong Savior. The only bridge between human weakness and our omnipotent God is faith. The authority and power of Jesus becomes effective in human life by faith.[4]

Mark 9:23 ESV And Jesus said to him, “’If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

This must seem impossible to the father. He does not seem to have the faith he thinks he needs:

Mark 9:24 ESV Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

True faith does not make a display of itself. It does not talk about itself. True faith does not boast. True faith realizes how small and insufficient it is. True faith looks beyond itself to the all-sufficiency of Jesus: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus could have told the man, “I am the glory of God in human form. Purify your heart, confess all your sins, get rid of all your doubts and your double-mindedness. Once you have surrendered to me totally and can come before me with a pure heart, then you can ask for the healing you need.” But Jesus doesn’t say that— not at all.[5]

Jesus takes the man where he is and leads him to where he wants him to be. If we will come to him, he will lead us to greater faith in Christ as we walk with him on the road of discipleship.

The Deliverance

Jesus often tried to shelter certain individuals from the sightseeing crowds. Jesus had compassion on people. He never used them to draw crowds to himself. He never used them for his own benefit. So when he saw a crowd running toward him, he wanted to quickly deliver this boy of the unclean spirit.

Mark 9:25 ESV And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Once again, it was by his word and in his own name that he cast out demons. Jesus did not appeal to heaven to expel the evil spirit. “I command you,” he said, “come out of him and never enter him again!”

The boy has been rolling on the ground, convulsing, and foaming at the mouth. Jesus has now commanded the demon, which he identifies as a “mute and deaf spirit,” to come out.

Mark 9:26-27 ESV And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Christ our Savior is greater than any demon, any unclean spirit, any situation. This is not about your faith; it’s about his power to save. Forget about your faith. Focus on our great Savior who is mighty to deliver.

SCENE FOUR

In scene four, we find Jesus and his disciples in a house where they ask him what went wrong:

Mark 9:28 ESV And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

It was an embarrassing failure. They had tried and failed to cast out the unclean spirit. The boy’s father had seen them fail. The crowd had seen them fail. And the hostile scribes had seen them fail.

“Why could we not cast it out?”

There seems to be an emphasis on “we” in the text. Their failure had actually come as quite a shock to them. Jesus had given them authority to expel demonic spirits:

Mark 6:7 ESV And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

They had gone out and had been successful. But now, they came up against a stronger demon.

Mark 9:29 ESV And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Did the disciples think that they knew how to do it? Were they depending upon themselves and their ability and their experience rather than depending upon Christ alone? Should they have been praying rather than arguing with the scribes?

Why do we fail so often in overcoming the demons and the sins that plague us? Are we trusting in ourselves rather than in God?

1 Corinthians 10:12 CSBO Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall!

Are we trusting in our methods and strength. The Apostle Paul says,

Philippians 3:3 NLT …We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,

Jesus is talking about a continual relationship of prayer to God. We text God and think we have prayed. We send a quick message to God, asking for help, but do not give him the time of day.

How can we overcome the evil in our own hearts and lives?

  1. Come to Jesus. This deliverance was a hard case, but Jesus told them, “Bring the boy to me.” Bring your sin, bring your problem, bring your situation to Jesus.
  2. Believe that Jesus can deliver you. Your faith does not have to be perfect. Act on the faith that you have. The boy’s father told Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
  3. Pray.

Jeremiah 33:3 ESV Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Isaiah 55:6 ESV “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;

  1. Read good portions of your Bible every day.

Romans 10:17 NLT So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

In daily reading God’s Word, the Bible, your faith will grow and you will know what God wants to do in your life.

John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Nothing is too hard for God! Our God is mighty to save!


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5178-5180). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5185-5187). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[4] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[5] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 119). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

Mark 08:38-09:13, “A Risk Worth Taking”

Transfiguration-Hagopian copy-2.jpgIntroduction

Is the Christian life really worth the risk?

1456053183_thumb.pngJim Elliot had dedicated his life to Jesus Christ when he was six years old. In October of 1949, at the age of 22, Jim Elliot wrote the words in his dairy by which he would always be remembered:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (October 28, 1949)

Jim became a missionary to Ecuador in South America and married Elizabeth on his 26th birthday (October 8, 1953). Less than three years later, in January 1956, Jim and four missionary companions were killed by the Auca Indians, when Jim was just 28 years old. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Elliot, and a child not yet one year old.

Was Jim Elliot a fool? Did he lose everything? Or did he gain what cannot be lost? Jim Elliot staked his life, and his death, on these words of Jesus:

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Is the Christian life really worth the risk?

Follow Me!

Jesus had called the disciples to follow him. They followed him through his ministry. They saw him heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind, cause the lame to walk, make the deaf to hear, and enable the mute to speak. Jesus’ disciples followed him as he taught, and forgave sins, and cast out demons, and calmed the storms, and fed the multitudes. It was an amazing experience to follow Jesus.

Everyone was talking about Jesus and trying to figure out exactly who he was and how he fit into God’s great plan. Was he Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets? Was he John the Baptist raised from the dead? Jesus had not said. He simply called himself the Son of Man.

But the disciples needed to know who he was. Jesus needed for them to know who he was. And yet, whatever they thought of him, they certainly had no idea of his mission. They had walked with Jesus for many months. He shared his ministry and authority with them. The disciples knew Jesus, but did they really know who he was?

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked.

“You are the Christ,” Peter answered.

Exact. Jesus was the Christ. The Christ-Messiah. That means that he was the anointed one, the chosen one, the one whom God had promised to send. And he had come.

The only problem was that the people including the disciples, thought that the Christ-Messiah would be a freedom-fighter to set Israel free from the domination of the Roman Empire.

The Christ had indeed come to set men free, but the freedom that he offered was not political in nature. It was freedom from the slavery of sin. But to set men free, the Christ would have to pay the penalty for sin and break the power of sin by going to the cross. The Christ-Messiah would be crucified. That was a scandal for the Jews. That was not the kind of Messiah that they had expected or wanted.

As soon as the disciples declared that Jesus was the Christ,

Mark 8:31 ESV And he began to teach them [the disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

The death of the Christ was not on the disciples’ radar screen. But they and everyone who would follow Christ, had to know that the way of Christ was the way of the cross:

Mark 8:34-35 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, [Jesus] said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

The message was incomprehensible. The disciples could not understand. What kind of talk was that? Was Jesus talking in parables? What kind of mystery was this? Jesus will tell them two more times (Mark 9:31; 10:34) that he is going to be killed and after three days rise again,

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

This is not what they expected. This is not what they had signed up for. But then again, they had not chosen him; he had chosen them (John 15:16). “Follow me!” he had said. And so they did.

But now things were becoming clear. Or rather, they were more confused. Before, the disciples thought that they understood, but they had not. Now that they were beginning to understand, it seemed all too confusing. Jesus had talked about a kingdom, the kingdom of God. That sounded great. But now he was talking about suffering, and rejection, and dying, and rising. What did that have to do with the kingdom of God? Denying yourself? Taking up your cross? Losing your life in order to save it? Really? What was that all about?!

Was Jesus really worth the risk?

1. The Three Disciples

Mark 9:2 ESV And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves….

We sometimes have the idea that God loves us all the same, that there are no favorites with God. That seems to be a nice idea, but it flies in the face of the facts. There were the multitudes that followed Jesus. Within the multitudes, there were 72 disciples that Jesus sent out (Luke 10:1,17). Of the 72, there were 12 that followed him more closely and whom he appointed “so that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14). And of those 12 disciples, there were three who were the closest to him. These three disciples, Peter and James and John, were the inner circle. They saw things and experienced things that the other disciples did not experience.

  • Jesus had only allowed Peter and James and John to be with him when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37).
  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus took Peter and James and John to be with him while he prayed, telling the other disciples to wait and “Sit here while I pray” (Mark 14:32).
  • And here in Mark 9, just one week after telling the disciples that he would suffer and be rejected and die and on the third day rise again, Jesus takes Peter and James and John, the inner circle, to the top of a high mountain, leaving the other disciples below.

These disciples were the core within the core. They were the inner group. Jesus would show them things that he would not show the others. Peter and James and John would be the ones who would help to keep the other disciples together.

1.1. The Transfiguration

Jesus led Peter and James and John

“up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mark 9:2).

Notice that the text says that Jesus was transfigured “before them.” Now before we consider the meaning of the transfiguration, we should note that it did not take place for Jesus. The transfiguration was for Peter and James and John. Jesus was transfigured “before them,” Mark tells us

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what his mission was. He knew why the Father had sent him. He knew before ever creating the universe, that he was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 NIV).

In coming into the world, he said to his Father, “A body you have prepared for me” so that we might be “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5, 10).

John 6:38 ESV For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what he was doing. He knew where he had come from. He knew what he had to do. And he knew where he was going.

But the disciples did not understand it. They were in great confusion about the matter. Jesus was not turning out to be the kind of Messiah that they were expecting or had hoped for. Even John the Baptist had asked,

Matthew 11:3 ESV … ”Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Now the disciples were wondering if they should look for another.

The transfiguration was not for Jesus; it was for the disciples. The transfiguration was for Peter and James and John. Again, Mark tells us that Jesus was transfigured “before them.” It was for the benefit of the inner three. It was for the benefit of Peter and James and John. The transfiguration was to strengthen their faith. The message of the transfiguration for the disciples was that though Jesus and his disciples would take the way of the cross, following Jesus was a risk worth taking. Whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake and for the gospel, will save it.

1.2. Jesus Was Transfigured

Mark 9:2-3 ESV …And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.

Luke tells us that

Luke 9:29 ESV And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.

Matthew tells us

Matthew 17:2 ESV And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

John, who was one of the three with Jesus on that mountain — John sees something of Christ that he will see again when the resurrected and glorified Christ appears to him in the Book of Revelation:

Rev 1:16 ESV and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and James and John saw something of the glory of Christ that was his before the foundation of the world. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed,

John 17:5 ESV And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Luke tells us

Luke 9:32 ESV Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory

These three disciples are seeing the glory of Christ, both his past glory before coming into the world, and his future glory.

The Apostle Paul says of him,

Philippians 2:6-8 NLT Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

But now, temporarily on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and James and John are allowed to see the glory of Christ. They are given a vision of his majesty.

It was before these three disciples, Peter and James and John, that Jesus was transfigured, so that they might see the glory that was his before the foundation of the world, so that they would realize that following Christ on the way of the cross was a risk worth taking.

First we see the three disciples. Then we see the two prophets:

2. The Two Prophets

Mark 9:4 ESV And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

Now this is most remarkable! For what reason do Moses and Elijah need to appear on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus? Once again, just like the transfiguration of Jesus was for the sake of the disciples, the appearance of Moses and Elijah was for the disciples.

Moses was the famed Law-giver. Moses had climbed up Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God. He had received the Law and had given it to the nation of Israel. But Moses had never entered the promised land before. Because of his sin of failing to obey God and honor God before the people, God had not allowed him to enter with the people that he had led for forty years through the wilderness. Moses had climbed Mount Nebo and looked over into the land, but there he died on the mountain, and God buried him. Centuries passed, and now by the grace of God, Moses stands in the land of promise with the very Son of God who had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

Elijah was the bold prophet who had called the people back to the Law. Moses had died, but Elijah did not die. Elijah was carried into the presence of God by a whirlwind. Now Elijah who had not died is back on earth talking with the one who would die for the sins of the world.

2.1. Passing Prophets

It is important that the appearance of Moses and Elijah was temporary. They appear with Jesus on the mountain, but soon disappear. They were not permanent figures. Their work pointing to the coming One, Jesus himself. Their presence on the mountain with Jesus shows the continuity between the Law, the Prophets, and Jesus. Their presence show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

After his resurrection, Jesus would appear to two of his disciples…

Luke 24:27 ESV And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus would tell his disciples,

Luke 24:44 ESV … ”These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Peter would preach at the house of Cornelius,

Acts 10:43 ESV To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Here on the Mount of Transfiguration appear Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. But their appearance is temporary. Just as the Apostle Paul would say in Galatians, now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the Law (Galatians 3:23-25), Moses and Elijah will disappear. Their purpose was fulfilled with Christ. Christ has come.

Romans 10:4 ESV For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Campbell Morgan comments,

Moses’ presence signified that in Jesus the shadows of the law were all fulfilled and now withdrawn. In Jerusalem men were still fighting, not merely for the law of Moses, but for the traditions of the elders, and priests and leaders were still arguing about the tithe of mint and cummin, while here upon the mount was the great law-giver himself, by his presence acknowledging that this glorified One, Who should presently be crucified in the name of the law, did in Himself gather up all that was hinted at, suggested, included in the economy of the past.[1]

Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. But then, a cloud of glory overshadowed them and Moses and Elijah were removed. Their work was completed in Jesus Christ. “There was no further need for Moses, nor yet for Elijah.”[2]

2.2. A Message from Heaven

In this appearance of Moses and Elijah, we see not only the temporary provisional nature of the Law and the Prophets pointing to Christ, we also see something of the nature of our future heavenly existence.

  1. We do not become angels.

Let’s also note that Moses and Elijah did not have wings. Only Luke spells this out so clearly:

Luke 9:30 ESV And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah,

Moses and Elijah are still men. We will ever remain human beings. God did not create us to become angels or gods. There is no evolution from one form to another. God created us to be men and women and thus we will ever be.

  1. Moses and Elijah are in a conscious state. They are not unconscious. They are not asleep. They are not dead, though Moses had died. As the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8,

2 Corinthians 5:8 NAU to be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord.

Jesus told the Sadducees that…

Matthew 22:32 ESV …the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

The presence of these men suggested not merely existence after life, but conscious existence, and not conscious existence only, but the continuity of the same existence with enlarged powers.[3]

Peter, James, and John knew Moses and Elijah. Our existence and identity and personality on the other side of this life is not absorbed into a state of nothingness or nirvana. We will know believers that we have known and believers that we have never met before. And we will be known. Our personality and identity will continue in the world to come.

We have seen the three disciples, and the two prophets. Now we turn to the one and only Son.

3. The One and Only Son

Mark 9:5 ESV And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Peter frequently put his mouth in gear before engaging his brain. His method was to act now, think later. One week earlier, he had rebuked Jesus for saying that he would suffer and be rejected and be killed and after three days, rise again.

Matthew 16:22 ESV And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Now, as the three disciples see the glory of Christ, Peter suggests that they make three tabernacles: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Immediately, Mark tells us,

Mark 9:6 ESV For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Peter had misspoken. In his attempt to honor Christ and Moses and Elijah, he had dishonored Christ. By suggesting that they make three tents or tabernacles for them, Peter had put his Master on the same level these men of the past.

Today, people are still attempting to put up tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Buddha, one for Confucius, one for Muhammad, one for the Bahá’u’lláh. Some religious leaders are calling for unity. Unity is an important value for the Christian. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one. The Apostle Paul tells us to make every effort to maintain the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:3). God’s purpose is “to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

But that is where some religious leaders have it so wrong. These leaders want the various religions to deny their distinctives. They call on Christians to deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. They say that if we can deny what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, what Jesus said about himself as the only way to the Father, and what God has said about his one and only Son as the one that we must listen to and obey, then and only then, can we have unity. They tell us that only if we deny the teachings of Christ, can we be united. That is blasphemous.

Christ is the only one who is great enough to save and unite people from every nation, as Revelation 7:9-10 tells us he will, people

from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Peter was absolutely wrong. No one compares with Jesus. God the Father would rebuke Peter.

3.1. The Father Speaks

Mark 9:7 ESV And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

3.1.1. The Identification of the Son

First, God says, “This is my beloved Son.” Moses and Elijah were servants, but Jesus was the Son of God.

Hebrews 3:5-6 ESV Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

God says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son.”

3.1.2. The Statement of Divine Satisfaction

In Matthew’s account, we read that God said,

Matthew 17:5 ESV … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased…”

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he is baptized by John the Baptist and his private life draws to a close, God declares from heaven,

Mark 1:11 ESV … ”You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Now as he approaches the end of his public ministry, again, the Father expresses his divine approval of his Son, but this time God adds, “Listen to him.”

3.1.3. The Father’s Command

Mark 9:7 ESV And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Build no tabernacles to Moses or Elijah. Their work is finished.

The message of the Book of Hebrews is the supremacy of the Son.

Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

No other voice is needed. Let all others be silent. No one supersedes the Son of God. No one replaces the Son. Not Muhammad, not Joseph Smith, or Ellen G. White, or the Bahá’u’lláh.

No further prophets will be sent by God to add to his message or modify it or abrogate it or take away from his message. False prophets will come. But what further need have we of prophets when God has spoken by his Son and has told us to listen to him: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

3.1.4. Jesus Only

Mark 9:8 ESV And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Peter, James, and John look, but Moses is gone. Elijah is gone. The Law and the Prophets had pointed to Christ, but their work is finished. Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. He alone remains. “They no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”

“Jesus only” churches will use this verse while forgetting the previous verse. The voice from heaven did not say, “I am my beloved Son; listen to me.” The Father clearly drew a distinction between himself and the Son: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The Father makes a distinction between himself and the Son who because he is the Son is of the same nature as the Father. He is not a god, but is “very God of very God.”

Nonetheless, the message of the Transfiguration is “Jesus only.” Peter understood that. He boldly told the religious authorities of Jerusalem:

Acts 4:12 ESV And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

John understood the message of the Transfiguration:

1 John 5:11-12 ESV And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Jesus leaves no room for another other way to God:

John 14:6 ESV Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The testimony of the Word of God is this:

1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all…

3.2. The Testimony of the Three

Is following Jesus worth the risk? Peter and James and John certainly believed that it was. Seeing the Lord transfigured before the eyes with the glory that was his before the foundation of the world, convinced them that if they lost their lives for Christ sake, they would save them.

James would seal his testimony with his blood. He would be beheaded by Herod.

John would live a long life, but he would testify,

John 1:14 ESV And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Peter speaks of this experience in his second epistle:

2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Do not ask for a vision. Do not ask for special revelations. Jesus only takes who he wants to take. In the next verse, Peter tells us,

2 Peter 1:19 ESV And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

The glory of Christ convinced them that “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

The Transfiguration tells us that following Jesus is a risk worth taking.


 

[1] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 238-239.

[2] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 241.

[3] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 243.


See also “Gospel of Mark”: