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Mark 10:1-31: Further Misconceptions Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 October 2007

At some point in our lives, we have fallen for ‘the oldest trick in the book.’  Somebody comes up behind you on the left side and reaches around and taps you on the right shoulder.  Someone tells you to look at something behind you in a restaurant (only to steal a few fries from you while you are turned around).  Someone tells you that your shoes are untied and then hits you in the face when you look down (alright, maybe that has never happened to us personally, but we’ve seen it again and again).  So, what exactly is ‘the oldest trick in the book’?  Well, from the examples above it is simply deceiving someone by distracting them.  You feel the tap on the shoulder and are too distracted by that to notice that the person is on the other side.  You are too busy looking for what they told you to look for to notice that your food is being stolen.  You get the idea.  Why do we fall for the oldest trick in the book so often?  Because we are so easily distracted.  It does not take much to cause us to lose our focus and open ourselves up for deception.

Unfortunately for us, our Enemy knows this very well.  He is constantly seeking to distract us from what really matters.  He uses debates and disagreements.  He uses pride and status.  He uses stuff and possessions.  He uses anything he can to distract us from following hard after Jesus.  In our text this morning, we see some people who are deceived and distracted.  The Pharisees are so consumed with ‘tricking’ Jesus and upholding their traditions, that they miss the Messiah standing right in front of them.  The disciples continue to be worried about their status and place in the Kingdom, all the while failing to understand what it really takes to enter.  The rich man cannot see what he stands to gain by following Christ because he is too concerned about giving up his possessions.  As we noted last week, we continue to see misconceptions about following Christ in all of these stories.  Thus, I want to pick up where we left off last week asking: what are the misconceptions and how does Jesus correct them?

First misconception: Divorce is acceptable (v. 1-12).

Once again the Pharisees come to Jesus with a challenge.  Look at verses 1-2.  We should note at this point what is behind this question about divorce.  Mark tells us that they are testing Him with the question.  Yet, how are they doing that?  In order to understand how this question served as a test for Jesus, we need some background.  At the time of Jesus’ ministry, there were two major understandings of divorce: a strict one and a more liberal one (based upon interpretations of Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  I do not want to go into all the specifics about these different views, but briefly stated the strict group held that one could divorce only for sexual misconduct, while the more liberal group held that a man could divorce for basically anything.  Thus the Pharisees figure that no matter how Jesus answers the question, He is going to offend one of the groups.

So how does Jesus respond?  Look at verses 3-9.  Jesus begins by asking them about what Moses commanded.  Referring to the Deuteronomy passage, they answer Him by telling Him that Moses allowed for divorce.  Jesus then states the reason for Moses’ allowance in Deuteronomy 24: Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  Divorce was allowed because of sin to minimize further damage in certain circumstances.  At this point, Jesus reminds them of what else Moses (and the Lord) said about marriage.  He quotes two passages from Genesis to show that divorce was not part of the original plan for marriage and the relationship between man and woman.  Jesus makes it clear that the purpose of marriage did not include divorce.  The two who became one through marriage were not to be separated.  He makes this point even further in private with His disciples.  Look at verses 10-12.  Again, Jesus stresses the seriousness of divorce and the sin that can result from remarriage, namely adultery.

So, what do we do with all of this?  Before I answer, let me just be honest and confess that I really struggle in understanding all that the Bible has to say about divorce.  We do need to realize that this is not all that is said about divorce.  Yet, what do we do with what is said here?  We must maintain a high view of marriage and always discourage divorce.  Divorce was not part of the original plan.  Yes, because of sin there are times when it is permissible, but that does not mean that ever really becomes a ‘good’ solution.  We cannot use the exception clause in Matthew to conclude that divorce somehow becomes a good option.  It is never a good option.  Again, sin may make it possible, but it is never ideal.  Rather, we need to hear what Jesus is saying.  Instead of being distracted by divorce and when it is allowable, we need to focus on and fight for a right understanding of marriage, going back to the beginning as Jesus instructs us here.  Any discussion of divorce must be guided by a right view of marriage.  May we pray for such a view and such a practice in our Church and in others as well.

Second Misconception: The insignificant do not have priority (v.13-16).

Even though Jesus had just corrected the disciples and their misunderstanding of status in the Kingdom of God, they apparently failed to receive the correction for they continued in their error.  Look at verse 13.  Seemingly, parents were bringing their young children to Jesus to be blessed by Him.  For a reason that Mark does not specify, the disciples rebuked them.  Apparently, according to Jesus’ rebuke of them, they just did not value children and the insignificant.

So how does Jesus respond?  Look at verses 14-16.  Jesus once again rebukes the disciples for misunderstanding the Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is not about status.  As we said last week, there is no place for pride in the Kingdom.  Rather, if we are going to enter into the Kingdom, then we must humble ourselves like children.  Notice as well how Mark describes Jesus: He is indignant.  Pride is such an ugly part of humanity.  I can say that because I see its ugliness in me so much.  I worry about how I am treated.  I worry about how I am viewed.  I forget that the Kingdom belongs to the poor in Spirit.  May the image of Jesus, almighty Creator of the universe, taking children into His arms to bless them, be a constant reminder to us of the humility required for entrance into the Kingdom.

Third Misconception: Following Jesus will cost us too much (v. 17-22, 28-31).

One of the great distractions that the Enemy uses against us is our possessions.  We see Jesus confronting this in verses 17-22.  Look at those with me.  The man asks how to inherit eternal life and Jesus asks him if he has kept the commandments.  The man tells him that he has kept them.  Jesus them tells him to sell all his stuff and give his money to the poor.  At this, the man lowers his head and walks away, for he had great possessions.  It is interesting to note that Mark tells us that Jesus loved the man.  In other words, Jesus is not just being hard on him.  No, Jesus loves him and wants him to follow him, but He knows that in order for that to happen, the man must be willing to give up his possessions.  Unfortunately, the man is not willing to do that.  For him, the sacrifice of his stuff is just too great.

What the man does not realize is that according to Jesus you will gain much more in following Him than you will ever lose.  Look at verses 28-31.  After Jesus speaks of the difficulty of entering into the Kingdom, especially for the rich (which we will consider in a moment), Peter reminds Him that the disciples have left everything to follow Him.  Yet, before Peter or the others are even able to be prideful or sorrowful about all that they had left, Jesus reminds them that what they stand to gain in following Him far outweighs anything that they have sacrificed.  Yes, the cost is great, but the reward is unbelievably greater, in this life and in the life to come.  Of course, Jesus is not teaching the health/wealth gospel here because it does not have room for the persecutions that He promises.  Rather, Jesus is making it clear that even in difficulty, even when everything is required of us, we will never out-give Him.  I am always reminded of the oft-quoted phrase from missionary Jim Eliot, who gave his life while trying to take the gospel to the Auca Indians.  He said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 1   The rich man would not give up his possessions to follow Christ and gain eternal life.  Peter speaks about all the sacrifices that the disciples to follow Christ.  Yet, Jesus reminds us all that He will not be out-given.

We must understand this correction if we are going to follow Christ.  Many times we read this passage and just assume that it does not really apply to us.  Yet, Jesus calls for us all to realize that if we are going to follow Him then we must be willing to give all to Him, realizing that what we stand to gain far outweighs what we stand to lose.  Therefore, let me just ask you this morning: what are you holding back?  What is keeping you from abandoning all to follow hard after Christ?  Whatever it is, it is not worth it according to Jesus.  After all, What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life (8:36)?  Willingly forsake all to follow Him because you know what you stand to gain in Him.

In light of all of the misconceptions and distractions that we have looked at over the past couple of weeks, we might be tempted to ask this question: who then can be saved?  This is the question that the disciples ask Jesus in verses 23-26.  Look at those verses with me.  In response to the rich man, Jesus instructs the disciples about the difficulties of the rich entering the Kingdom of God.  This would have been hard for the disciples to grasp considering they viewed riches as a blessing of God.  Jesus, however, recognizes how easily we are distracted by them and just how costly possessions can be.  All of this leads to the disciples question in verse 26.  They figure, if it is impossible for the rich to get into the Kingdom, then who can make it in? 

Jesus answers in verse 27.  Look at that verse with me.  For man, we cannot get past our distractions.  We are enslaved to sin: to pride, to greed, to lust, to everything that leads straight to Hell.  And if left to ourselves, we will run head-long into eternal punishment.  Yet, all things are possible with God.  He can take men who are addicted to their many distractions and set them free.  By the crushing of His Son under His wrath at the cross, He has broken the power of the Enemy to deceive and distract.  O Lord, may we live in light of that victory.  May we be free from all distractions and run hard after our Savior, for our great good and your great glory.  Amen. 

1 Quoted in John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1996), p. 211.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 November 2007 )

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