divorce02Mark 10

1.  Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan.  And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again.

There were two main divisions in Israel, called Galilee and Judea.  Galilee was the northern portion of Israel, and Judea was the southern portion.  The capital of Jerusalem was in the southern portion.  In between these two regions was the region of Samaria.  This had been a part of Israel in the past, but now it was the land of the half-Jews, and was avoided by the normal Israelites.

Here, the Lord is in the southern region of Judea.  The Jordan ran north-south, and He crosses the Jordan to the other side, which would be the western side.  The multitudes gather to Him once again there, and He teaches them again, according to His custom.  Our Lord was ever willing to teach.

2.  The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.

The Pharisees, as we know, were anxious to catch the Lord Jesus in His words so that they could have something with which to accuse Him.  Their questions were not asked with the spirit of learning, but only to seek a matter to bring against Him.  Thus, they here ask Him the very sticky question of divorce.

3.  And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”

The Lord Jesus, as He often did, responds to the question the Pharisees had asked Him with another question.  This way, He forces them to answer their own question.  He asks them what Moses commanded in the law regarding divorce.

4.  They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”

Moses had indeed written the injunction that the Pharisees sited.  Of course, Moses was not ultimately the author, for God Himself gave the law.  And since the Lord was the Son of God, He well knew this provision, having given it Himself.

The word here is not “certificate.”  What it indicates in Greek is a little book or scroll.  The command was that a man should write on a little scroll his accusation against his wife, and then divorce her.

5.  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

Although the Pharisees were correct about the injunction that God had given, they had no understanding of why the injunction was given.  The Lord, on the other hand, being the original author of the Scriptures, well knew what it was that God had in mind when He authored this section.  Thus, He reveals to these Pharisees that God did not give these instructions because this is what He wanted.  Rather, He gave it to them as a concession due to the hardness of their hearts.

6.  “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’

This quote from Genesis 1:27 shows that God did make them male and female from the beginning of His creation of them.  It seems likely that both male and female were originally contained in Adam.  This would be unique among the higher orders of animals, but then, men are unique in many ways.  However, when He took the “rib” out of Adam, He was actually taking a “side” out of Adam, when one examines the Hebrew.  This “side” was his feminine side, the side that was put into the woman, later named Eve.  Thus, mankind has always been male and female.

7.  “’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

This is another reference back to Genesis, this time to 2:24.  This is referencing the fact that the Woman, Isha, was bone of Adam’s bone and flesh of Adam’s flesh.  She was taken out of man, but by marriage the two are joined back together.  Thus, marriage is the restoration to a whole of what was divided when God took the woman out of the man Adam.  This joining was God’s original plan.  Christ is proving that by quoting this passage, and showing the Pharisees why the provision for divorce was not God’s original, perfect will, but rather only a concession based on their hard hearts.

8.  “’And the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Once they are joined by marriage, they are no longer two individual beings, but rather they are one flesh in God’s sight.

9.  “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

This joining was part of God’s plan.  Those who were breaking it by divorce were guilty of breaking that which God had decreed should be joined together.  The Pharisees, of course, could not answer this, for they could not deny His use of Scripture, nor His appeal to the intentions and purpose of God.  His answer had been drawn from the Scriptures that they claimed to love, guard, protect, and set forth.  They could not oppose what Christ said, or they would be seen to be opposing the very Word of God.  The Lord had trapped them in their own trap, as He so often did.

10.  In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.

The disciples wished further clarification on this.  Perhaps they were wondering, if divorce is wrong, is remarriage after divorce also wrong?  Could the Lord really mean that divorce and remarriage are sins?

11.  So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.
12.  “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

The Lord clarifies this to them by revealing that remarriage after divorce does indeed constitute adultery.  This had even more meaning to the Israelite, since family line was so crucial to passing on your inheritance of land from the Lord.  The inheritance by right belonged to your descendents.  If your family line was adulterated, however, how would the inheritance God had given you be passed on correctly?  Divorce and remarriage harmed the family line, and thus the plan God had for passing on the property He had given them.  Yet even today, when we have no such inheritance from the Lord to pass on, divorce and remarriage destroys families, and separates what God wishes to be joined together.

13.  Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

“They” here probably indicates the common people.  They were bringing their children to the Lord, hoping that He would touch them.  What an honor indeed would it be to have the Lord Himself hold your baby!  Yet the disciples did not view these children as being worthy of His time.  Many in our day likewise view children as of little worth, and more of an annoyance at times than anything else.  In that day children were often little better than slaves, particularly girl children.  Thus, it seems the disciples were rebuking these parents one by one as they tried to bring their children to Him.

14.  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

The Lord did not hold the same view of children as His disciples did.  He thought they were very worth His time, and He was indignant when He saw the disciples seeking to keep the children from Him.  As they were rebuking the parents, He turns around and rebukes them, and orders them to let the little children come to Him.  Indeed, our Lord is ever ready to rebuke those who would keep others from coming to Him!  Then He reveals that of such as these children is the kingdom of God.  Those who enter His kingdom must be like little children before Him.  We will all be like children in that day!

It is interesting that this passage concerning children follows right after the passage on marriage and divorce.  Indeed, children are the biggest physical evidence of the joining of two into one flesh, since their flesh literally is a composition of that of their two parents.  They also are the ones hurt most by divorce that splits that union apart, and splits their hearts apart as well.

15.  “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

The Lord explains what He meant by “of such is the kingdom of God” in regards to little children.  He rebuked His disciples by pointing out that one must become like a child, absolutely believing and trusting what God says, in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  In that case, then, children should be honored and encouraged to exercise faith in God.  What these disciples were doing was most improper.

16.  And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.

The Lord takes these children in His arms, and does not merely hold them, but also blesses them.  What a privilege was theirs!

17.  Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

The Lord was going out on the road, probably to go to another place.  As He is going, though, He is met by one who comes running up and kneels before Him.  Either this man was rushing to the Lord before He left so he wouldn’t miss Him, or else he was so anxious to get his question answered that he ran to the Lord as fast as he could to get the answer to it.  At any rate, this man strongly desires to get an answer from the Lord to this question that is on his heart.  Thus, on his knees before Him, he asks his question: what should he do so he might inherit eternal life?  Again, this is eonian life, or outflowing life in that great time to come on earth: the kingdom of God.

18.  So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but One, that is, God.

The Lord begins His dialogue with this man by asking him why he had called Him good.  Notice that He did not rebuke him for calling Him good, merely asked him to clarify why he had done this.  This man could have responded in faith that he had called Him good because He was indeed God, but he did not.  This was the Lord working on the man’s heart to produce faith.  That was what this man really needed.  Yet what he wanted was something he could do.  This is ever the desire of the heart of man: to be able to do something to make himself good in the sight of God.  Yet the truth is that there is nothing we can do.  All that could be done has been done by our Lord on the cross.  All we can do is believe.

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

The Lord continues by pointing out the law, God’s Word, contained in the ten commandments.  As an Israelite, it was necessary for this man to follow these commandments.  Of course, the Lord does not list all the commandments, but only a few of them, for the man certainly knew all of them already.  Yet, as James tells us in his book chapter 2 verse 10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  It is not possible to please God by only keeping part of the law.  This man must keep all of the commandments to please God in this way.

20.  And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

The man confidently asserts that he has followed all the law from his youth, and the Lord does not argue with him.  Yet the question remains: if he had kept all the law, then what still did he lack?  It seems the man knew he was missing something, yet he just didn’t know what.  This is the question he wanted the Lord to answer.

21.  Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

The Lord looks at the man and loves him.  Certainly, He desired to see this man pass the test of faith that He was about to put to him.  Yet it is not up to the Lord, but rather up to us, whether we will show faith or not when He challenges us to do so!  So the Lord now asks the young man to demonstrate faith to Him.  Now he must give up his worldly possessions, take up nothing but the cross, and follow Him.  Again, “cross” here is the word “stake,” and means, not an instrument of execution, but rather a walking stick.  This symbolized the giving up of the life he was leaving behind, and the fact that he was taking nothing with him of that life but a stick.  The Lord wanted this man to do this, and to become a follower of Him.  What a privilege He was offering him!

22.  But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Unfortunately, this man was unwilling to respond in faith.  This was too much to ask of him, it seems.  When it came to the final analysis, he loved his money more than his Maker.  Thus, he goes away.  He goes sadly, yet he makes his choice.  How sad it is when men choose this way rather than to follow the Lord!  But many do still today.

23.  Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”

The Lord knows that this man has lost out in the test of faith.  Yet now He turns His attention to those who stand by Him, who have not rejected Him and who still are willing to be taught by Him and to hear Hi s words.  He looks around at these and then reveals the truth to His disciples, that it is very hard for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!

24.  And the disciples were astonished at His words.  But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!

The disciples can hardly believe this.  In Israel at this time, the rich were looked up to as the very best of people.  They must have a very special place in God’s sight, it was thought, to have been blessed with wealth.  Yet the Lord’s words were the very opposite of what they believed.  They thought that the rich had an in with God, whereas the Lord revealed that instead, their riches made it much harder for them to come to God!

Notice the difference between verses 23 and 24.  In the verse 23 He mentions those who have riches, and in verse 24 those who trust in them.  Having does not necessarily constitute trusting in them, but trusting in them certainly constitutes having them.  It is trusting in riches that is really the stumbling block, not having them, He reveals here.  Yet unfortunately the two often go hand-in-hand.

25.  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some have argued that the “camel through the eye of a needle” is a reference to a very small gate into the city of Jerusalem.  This gate was made for pedestrians, and a camel could hardly be expected to fit through it.  Yet, they tell us, a camel could do this if it was unburdened of all it was carrying.  The only way to get it through would be for it to leave all of its load behind.  That is the lesson here, those who teach this proclaim: that to enter the kingdom of God we must leave all our possessions and all other things that might burden us behind.  We must come before God with nothing in order to receive the salvation He gives.  That is, after all, what He was asking the rich man to do.

Although this seems like a profound thought, it does not seem to fit with the context, when we examine it carefully.  From the Lord’s statement in verse 27, it is obvious that getting a camel through the eye of a needle is something that is impossible, not just hard to do.  If one could get a camel through the eye of a needle merely by unburdening it, then the Lord’s statement that with men it is impossible would not be true.  Thus, whether the Lord was referring to the literal eye of a needle, or whether He was referring to some gate somewhere, the truth is that getting a camel through it was impossible, not just difficult, or a matter of unburdening it.

26.  And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

The disciples are amazed, for they know that a camel passing through the eye of a needle is impossible.  And thus, since they viewed the rich as being the very best of people, it seemed to them that then what hope could the rest of them have?  If the best of people could not enter God’s kingdom, then who could?  Of course, they were making a bad assumption about who the best of people were.

27.  But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

The Lord Jesus looks at them, an interesting fact that only Mark makes note of.  Maybe this look was to emphasize what He was about to say.  Then, He reminds them that all things are possible with God.  It was impossible for them to save themselves, or to do anything on their own to please God.  Yet God was able to save them, rich or poor, and He provided for that salvation on the cross.  Praise the Lord, for indeed He has done the impossible in saving us as well!

28.  Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”

Peter, hearing these words of his Lord, thinks back to what the Lord had commanded the rich man.  He had told him he could enter the kingdom of God if he would give up all his possessions, take up a stake, and follow Him.  Peter realizes that this is what he and his fellow disciples have done.  Thus, he is quick to point this out: that he and his fellow disciples have left everything and followed Him.

29.  So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,
30.  “Who shall 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.

Peter almost seems to have been bragging a bit in pointing out what he and the others had done, yet the Lord does not rebuke him.  Instead, He gives him a promise: that he would receive much more than he had left at that time.  Yet the Lord also warns him that he would receive these things with persecution.  As long as we remain in this world and serve our Lord, our blessings will always be mixed with trouble!  Yet there are even better blessings to come, and blessings that will not include persecutions.  The Lord promises him these blessings too, that in the eon, the great flow of God to the world, that was coming, he would receive eonian life.

This promise was made to His followers of that day, and was like a check that they could cash at the bank.  They WOULD receive all these things, and these men did.  However, though some may leave these same things in our day to serve the Lord, they have no such promise attached to their commitment.  We would be right in saying, I believe, that they will receive eternal life, but the blessings in this life were only promised to those who were directly following the Lord at that time.  Remember, He was like their employer, and He made promises to them based on that.  They received this special promise from the Lord, and He carried it out in their lives.

31.  “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This phrase was repeated by our Lord several times, and seems to mean different things in the different contexts it is used.  In this case, this rather mysterious saying seems to speak of how the positions of many men will be reversed in God’s Kingdom.  Those who are “last” are the most significant, and those who are “first” are the best or the representative people.  In this life, many of the best sorts of men are not significant, and many of the most significant of people are not the best of people at all.  This is the opposite of what the disciples had been believing.  They thought that just to be rich meant you had to be one of the best people around.  Yet that was not true in Israel, nor is it true in our day.  Those who are the most privileged in this life often do not deserve it at all.  In God’s Kingdom, however, only the very best of people will be important, and all those who are important will be of the very best of people.  What a glorious time that will be!