What does Mark 10 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Where Luke and John give an extensive account of Jesus' teaching between Galilee and Perea, Mark skips ahead to the action. He leaves out Jesus' exhortation to forgive seventy-times-seven (Matthew 18:15–35), the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:11–31), controversial teachings in Jerusalem (John 8:12–59; Luke 11:14–36), the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), the death and resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1–44), and several confrontations with the Pharisees that incited the religious leaders to try to find a way to kill Him (John 10:22–39).

Mark 10 probably begins in the region of Perea, on the other side of the Jordan River from Judea, where John the Baptist had his ministry. It ends in Jericho, on the way to Jerusalem and the cross. The stories revolve around the way in which those with worldly power naturally reject God's way. Some by rejecting the needs of women, children, and the disabled, and some by seeking and holding onto power, wealth, and influence instead of submitting themselves to their Creator.

Mark 10 leaves behind the arguments about who Jesus is and concentrates on whom He wants. He starts with a section on divorce (Mark 10:1–12). In Judaism, even today, women are not allowed to divorce their husbands. In Jesus' time, a man could dismiss his wife for the smallest of offences, including burning his meal. Jesus condemns such fickle men and protects vulnerable women by reminding His audience that marriage joins two into one—it does not create one master and one disposable servant.

The disciples still see Jesus as the political and military hero who will deliver Israel from the Romans. They can't fathom why He would champion the powerless like women or children. They try to keep children out of His way, thinking they are an inappropriate distraction from more important work (Mark 10:13–16). Jesus stops them and welcomes the children, saying that it is exactly the powerless who will receive God's kingdom.

As a counterpoint to Jesus' acceptance of the powerless, Mark shows how those with earthly prestige may actually be unfit for the kingdom of God (Mark 10:17–31). A rich young man asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. It happens this man has faithfully observed all the Ten Commandments relating to how a God-follower should treat other people. But with a little more digging, Jesus uncovers that the man lives in conflict with the second commandment, to have no other gods before God. His love of his own wealth is enough to discourage him from further seeking. The man leaves disheartened, knowing that his love of his earthly possessions keeps him from fully pleasing God.

In a second example of how the powerful of the world reject God, Jesus reminds the disciples that the Jewish leaders will reject Him (Mark 10:32–34). Jesus' third prophecy of His death includes more detail. He tells them that the chief priests, scribes, and Gentiles will be involved, and they will mock Him, spit on Him, and flog Him before they kill Him. He also tells them He will rise after three days.

Directly on the heels of this prophecy—at least in the flow of this text—James and John ask for positions of power in Jesus' kingdom (Mark 10:35–45). Jesus responds somewhat gently, reminding them that leadership in God's kingdom requires sacrifice and servanthood, not position and authority.

Finally, Jesus meets Blind Bartimaeus, a beggar from Jericho with the meek but bold heart Jesus values (Mark 10:46–52). Despite the condemnation of the crowd around him, Bartimaeus calls out until Jesus responds. When Jesus heals him, Bartimaeus does not return to his old life, he follows Jesus, perhaps with a clearer view of God's kingdom than the Twelve who know Jesus best.
Verse Context:
Mark 10:1–12 carries profound implications for marriage and sexuality. In Jesus' time, a man could divorce his wife for the slightest offense. Jesus' asserts people have corrupted God's definition for marriage: that one man and one woman become unified by a covenant made before God. Jesus then says that if a man can't handle that kind of lifelong commitment, he shouldn't get married (Matthew 19:10–12). As usual, God's law protects the powerless: in this case, women. Today, Jesus' words do the same, rebuking those who choose to harden their hearts against their spouse for selfish reasons. An expanded version of this account is in Matthew 19:1–12, and Luke 16:18 contains a portion of it, as well.
Mark 10:13–16 continues Mark's depiction of what Christ-followers look like by showing Jesus' attitude toward children. While in Capernaum, Jesus taught the disciples that in the kingdom of God, the powerless, like children, are most welcome (Mark 9:36–37). The kingdom is open to those who come humbly with no illusions that they belong there. Here, Jesus says that leaders in His ministry must not only accept the powerless, they must recognize that they are powerless, as well. This story is also recorded in Matthew 19:13–15 and Luke 18:15–17.
Mark 10:17–31 begins as Jesus is trying to teach the disciples that God's kingdom values the powerless (Mark 9:36–37), the faithful (Mark 9:38–41), women (Mark 10:1–12), and children (Mark 10:13–16). The disciples, perhaps, are distracted by the many people who want to arrest or kill Jesus (John 7:32–52; 8:58–59; 10:22–39; 11:45–54; Luke 13:31). A wealthy young man asks Jesus about eternal life—and gets an unexpected answer in return. His response to Jesus' answer shows that his interest in God is limited by one thing: his money. Through all of history, wealth has been assumed to suggest the favor of God. But Jesus reveals that those whom God blesses often value the gifts more than the Giver. This story is also in Matthew 19:16–30 and Luke 18:18–30.
Mark 10:32–34 is the third time (Mark 8:31–33; 9:30–32) that Jesus tells His disciples He will be killed and rise again after three days. For the third time, the disciples don't understand. Their incomprehension seems inexcusable, but our hindsight benefits from more than two thousand years of Christian teaching. Luke gives us additional insight: God is hiding the full meaning of Jesus' words from them (Luke 18:34). Maybe to bolster the disciples' courage, but maybe because the fulfilled prophecy would have a greater effect on the disciples than a warning (Luke 24:6–8). This section is also found in Matthew 20:17–19 and Luke 18:31–34.
Mark 10:35–45 describes the arrogant request of James and John to have positions of power and authority in Jesus' coming kingdom. This comes after learning that Jesus values the powerless like women and children (Mark 10:1–16), that those with earthly power and wealth can have a hard time following God because they can tend to value their possessions more (Mark 10:17–22), and that part of Jesus' plan for His kingdom is to die a horrible death (Mark 10:32–34). Neither Luke nor John record this account, but Matthew adds that James and John's mother is involved in the request (Matthew 20:20–28).
Mark 10:46–52 describes Jesus traveling through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem and the cross. He is stopped by a blind man who wishes to be healed. The first account of Jesus healing a blind man comes directly after Jesus accuses the disciples of spiritual blindness (Mark 8:14–26). This, the last of Jesus' healing miracles in Mark, directly follows James and John's spiritually blind request for positions of power in Jesus' kingdom. Luke 18:35–43 records a similar event, possibly the same one; Matthew 20:29–34 mentions that Bartimaeus has a friend who is also healed.
Chapter Summary:
In this passage, Jesus again confronts the Pharisees by clarifying God's views on marriage and divorce. He reminds the disciples not to dismiss the spiritual perspective of children. This chapter also records Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler, who becomes an object lesson in why wealth makes it hard for people to rely on God. After this, Jesus deftly sets aside an arrogant request from James and John, and again predicts His impending death. Just prior to the triumphal entry of chapter 11, Jesus is sought out by Bartimaeus, whom He heals of blindness.
Chapter Context:
In between chapters 9 and 10, Jesus resumes His public teaching as He travels to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (Luke 9:57—18:14; John 7—10). We meet Him here across the Jordan in Perea and follow as He makes His way west again to Jericho. This chapter surrounds a third prophecy of Jesus' death (Mark 10:32–34) with lessons on His value for those others often dismiss: women (Mark 10:1–12), the powerless (Mark 10:13–16), those who value God more than the world (Mark 10:17–31), servant-hearted leaders (Mark 10:35–45), and those with bold faith (Mark 10:46–52). Next is the triumphal entry and the beginning of Passion Week.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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