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Study 15 - The Standards of the Kingdom

M ARK CHAPTER 10:1-31

Questions 1. Has there been an occasion in your life where God did something which you
thought was nearly impossible?

READ Mark 10:1-31

2. How did the Pharisees' question test Jesus? What did they hope to achieve in
their dialogue with Jesus?
3. What does Jesus say about the meaning and purpose of marriage in these
verses? How is this different from the Pharisees understanding and our current
cultural view of marriage?
4. How is it that little children coming to Jesus are a model for us? What attitude
in them are we to imitate? What prevents us from imitating them?
5. In vs. 17 a man addresses Jesus with the words, "Good teacher, what must I
do to inherit eternal life?" Why does Jesus challenge the man's words?
6. What does Jesus uncover about the man by asking him to sell all that he
owns? Is this a command that all are meant to obey?
7. Jesus says, "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." What effect did Jesus mean for
this to have on the disciples? What are the implications of this statement for us?
8. How is Jesus' promise in vs. 29-31 true? What does it tell us about the church
and our responsibilities as members of it? What are some of the ramifications (be
specific as possible) for life in your fellowship group?
9. What is the connecting theme through the verses of this passage?
10. In looking over the passage, what things do we learn about the character of
Jesus? What are the implications of these insights for our lives?

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LEADER'S NOTES M ARK 10:1-31

Main Points In this passage we continue to get teaching on Christian discipleship from Jesus.
The teaching is given in the context of conflict during three encounters: with
Pharisees, with the disciples, and with “the rich young ruler”. Each encounter
exposes the sin in the heart of those taught and their need of salvation. Jesus
offers it but to receive it they need to respond as children, acknowledging their
dependence and helplessness.

Commentary on the 1. Has there been an occasion in your life where God did something
Passage and Notes on which you thought was nearly impossible?
the Questions
Approach question.
2. How did the Pharisees' question test Jesus? What did they hope to
achieve in their dialogue with Jesus?
John the Baptist had earlier lost his head for denouncing the illegitimate marriage
of Herod to Herodias, his brothers wife. (Mk. 6:18). His thundering words
seemed likely to incite revolt. It seems that the Pharisees are hoping to get Jesus
into a similar predicament. If Jesus proclaims divorce illegal, then perhaps Herod
will imprison him so that he is out of the Pharisees' way.
3. What does Jesus say about the meaning and purpose of marriage in
these verses? How is this different from the Pharisees understanding
and our current cultural view of marriage?
The Pharisees begin by asking if it is "lawful" for a man to divorce his wife.
Jesus is aware of their duplicity and asks what is "commanded". This puts the
focus on what God desires rather than what God allows. Their own wickedness
emerges, and desiring to trap Jesus they persist that Moses "permitted" divorce.
They are no longer on the high ground, but Jesus intends to stay there. The
passage of Scripture which the Pharisees refer to is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. It is a
passage which presupposes the fact of divorce and is mainly concerned with
prohibiting a divorced and remarried woman from remarrying her first husband.
Rabbis had taken this as giving sanction for divorce. But in actuality it does not.
Moses command is given so that matters aren't made worse than they already
are. As Jesus says, "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote
you this law." The word "your" implicates the Pharisees in the same attitude.
That Jesus takes issue with the ancient Rabbis and disagrees with their
interpretation is unexpected and jolts the Pharisees. Some would have thought he
was attacking the perfection of the OT law. Jesus was attacking the use of this
passage to justify shedding wives whenever husbands wished to. Divorce was
not God's intention. A religion which encouraged divorce, (and the Pharisees
religion did), destroys a God-made relationship and is unjust. The Pharisees
cannot report Jesus to Herod with a clear conscience. Jesus has once again
demonstrated his authority. So powerful is his argument, that once he is finished
the Pharisees disappear.

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Jesus saw marriage as a relationship which closely reflected the image of God.
In marriage the love in the Godhead could be reflected - the sharing of his love,
kindness, patience and faithfulness. It was to be a permanent relationship. This
was God's intention from the very beginning. Jesus' putting emphasis on the fact
that God made man, both male and female, that the image of God is reflected in
the two sexes and implied that both must be respected as equal partners. In
addition to this, in a culture where men were allowed to divorce but women were
not, Jesus emphasized that the man also must forsake all others - "For this
reason a man must leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh". According to Jesus, men did not have
more rights in marriage and divorce than woman did.
Speaking to the disciples in the house, Jesus returns to the purpose of
Deuteronomy 24. Moses' point is not that divorce is permissible, but that divorce
perverts God’s design. Indeed, to divorce and remarry is to commit adultery.
Therefore, the Rabbinical interpretation that divorce is permissible is corrupt. Not
only does divorce break the creation ordinance, it breaks Sinai law as well. This
was also revolutionary. In Jewish law, a man was considered to have committed
adultery not against his wife but against the husband of the woman he committed
adultery with. Jesus contradicts this. The man is guilty of adultery "against her"
if he divorces and marries another woman. Men and women have equal rights
and responsibilities.
Why wasn't Moses explicit about the immorality of divorce? We don't know.
All that we know is that he was making allowances for man's hard-heartedness.
According to Jesus, in the Kingdom of God such allowances are not made.
Marriage in our own day reflects the Pharisees view more than it does the view
of Jesus. Marriage is seen primarily as a place of fulfillment, not a relationship in
which one is called, first and foremost, to honor God. As soon as a person is
unhappy in marriage or not getting out of it what he or she hoped, the relationship
is viewed as non-binding and able to be discarded. Deeper purposes are not
seen. To be sure in our own day a woman can divorce a man just as easily as a
man can divorce a woman. But beyond that no "progress" has really been
made.
4. How is it that little children coming to Jesus are a model for us? What
attitude in them are we to imitate? What prevents us from imitating
them?
People without children might easily err here. Jesus is not commending children
as innocent and humble because they are neither. Most likely he meant that
children were totally dependent upon the will of others and had no legal or social
right to make claims for particular treatment. They had an objectively humble
place in society. To be childlike is to accept our incomplete growth and to simply
depend upon the good pleasure of God. Once we believe that we have a status
that bestows rights to be heard and received, we have ceased to be childlike.
"The person who imagines that he or she is somehow worthy of God's favor
and that participation in the kingdom depends upon social or religious rank
will never enter the kingdom that Jesus announces."

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Of course, we resist an attitude in which we are not in charge and where it is not
for us to make demands. We want to be in control. We want to earn what we
get. We don't want charity. Thus, pride is our undoing. Our pride and wanting
things to be ours by right must be surrendered in order to enter the kingdom.

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5. In vs. 17 a man addresses Jesus with the words, "Good teacher, what
must I do to inherit eternal life?" Why does Jesus challenge the man's
words?
Jesus queries the man's perception of what is good and what is not. The man is
using the word casually and needs to reflect on what he is saying especially over
an issue as important as eternal life. To get your values wrong on such an issue
will have disastrous consequences. Jesus is not denying his own goodness. In
fact, he may intentionally be borrowing the scribes' phraseology from Mark 2:7
where they ask "who can forgive sins but God alone?" There he
demonstrated his divinity. Here he asks, "Who is good but God alone?" with
highly reminiscent language, probably an ironic hint to his identity to draw the man
out.
6. What does Jesus uncover about the man by asking him to sell all that
he owns? Is this a command that all are meant to obey?
The man has not really kept all the commandments. He has failed to keep the
first commandment "to have no other gods before me." and it is of this sin
idolatry that the man seems unable to repent. Perhaps he hoped that one more
work on top of others would enable him to inherit eternal life. When Jesus says,
"One thing you lack" he is not saying there is one more thing in addition to the
others which you must do. Instead, he means that the man is lacking the one and
only thing necessary - which is to follow Jesus and give him complete allegiance.
The addition of the command "Come, follow me", to the command, "Go sell
everything that you have and give to the poor" implies that charity by itself
will not suffice. Charity apart from discipleship is useless. Paul himself says, "If
I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but
have not love, I gain nothing." Salvation comes when we look to Jesus in
complete dependence for his mercy and grace. This shows our renunciation of
idolatry. Jesus' words were spoken to a specific individual in a specific situation.
Other New Testament Christians have wealth and use it for the benefit of others
without being instructed to sell all that they have. Yet we need to ask ourselves
honestly what it says to our own situation. Because if anything is competing with
God for our allegiance, it must be dealt with ruthlessly and mercilessly. We must
have no other gods. The basic teaching of Christianity with regards to our
salvation is that though "the entrance fee to the Christian life is nothing at all,
the annual subscription is everything, you have." Other implications of this
command are explored in the next question.
7. Jesus says, "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." What effect did Jesus
mean for this to have on the disciples? What does this imply for us?
The prevailing belief of the day was that riches were a sign of God's favor and
blessing upon a person. Rich people were certain to inherit eternal life. Jesus
turns this wisdom upside down. "it is harder than impossible for the rich
person to be saved," says Jesus. "If a rich person can't be saved, who then
can be saved?”, the disciples ask. Jesus' main point is that salvation for anyone
is impossible! If anyone enters the kingdom (synonymous with "inheriting

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eternal life" and being "saved"), it is only because of a miracle of God. And
Jesus is certainly saying that riches are a massive obstacle. No attempts at
softening the metaphor can avoid the plain meaning. Jesus meant it literally.
Riches compete in a fierce way for our allegiance. In another passage Jesus
says "No one can serve two masters... You cannot serve both God and
money.” (Mt 6:24) Here, the rich man's preoccupation with this world outstrips
his concern for eternal life.
Jesus demonstrates here that riches hinder participation in the kingdom of God
and that accumulation of wealth and attachment to it prevent a person from
following Him. Only the work of God can cause a rich person to lose their
dependence upon wealth. To say “ I don't love money. I am not attached to it"
proves little. We must all ask the question of our own attitudes or risk great loss.
8. How is Jesus' promise in vs. 29-31 true? What does it tell us about
the church and our responsibilities as members of it? What are some of
the ramifications (be specific as possible) for life in your fellowship
group?
Jesus agrees that the disciples have given up everything to follow him. They are
not like the rich man. They have inherited eternal life. And Jesus says they have
privileges already, here and now, that come from following him. Not only does
one inherit eternal life, but one gains a new family. For the disciples this family is
made up of those who they encounter on their mission who offer them hospitality.
Those who offer cold cups of water to the disciples in their journey demonstrate
that they accept Jesus' message and belong to him. Therefore, they and the
disciples are part of the same family. They are the mothers, sisters, brothers and
children of the disciples who entertain them in their homes and support them from
their fields.
This does not mean that prosperity is promised to the disciples. The riches they
receive in this life are different from those which the rich man held onto. Jesus
reminds them that those who follow Christ will suffer persecution as well. We
also have this same promise fulfilled in the church. We belong to each other. We
have the responsibility to be there for anyone else who belongs to this family. Of
course, there will be people in the church that we would not have chosen for our
own family but this is a community of faith and God has done the choosing.
Whoever has welcomed Jesus and his message is part of our family. We have
obligations to them or else we undermine God's promise to them. We not only
have mothers, sisters, brothers and children through the church, we are the
mothers, brothers, sisters, and children and must act accordingly. Interestingly,
even though we leave "fathers" for the gospel, Jesus does not include "fathers"
among those whom we gain. This is most likely because he understood God to be
our Father. As such, he is the only Father we need.
9. What is the connecting theme through the verses of this passage?
Each section of this passage highlights the radical standards of Christ's kingdom.
They confront all human cultures. Our attitude toward marriage, toward children,
and toward money are all affected by being disciples of Christ. While we may

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often fall short of these standards, we must never cease to pursue them. Our
striving to live them is a mark that we truly belong to him.
10. In looking over the passage, what things do we learn about the
character of Jesus? What are the implications of these insights for our
lives?
Since the Gospels are the main source for our knowledge of the character of
Jesus, it is important that we continually ask what is being revealed about him in
all of his encounters, even when these things may be incidental to the main point
of a passage. In the first encounter with the Pharisees, we see his wisdom. He
is able to teach the word of God with clarity and cut through attempts to obscure
it's meaning. He teaches truly and can guide us in our understanding of God's
intention for us. In his encounter with the disciples, we see both his indignation
and warmth. He does get disturbed when people (children in this case) are not
treated with the respect which they deserve. When people, who are part of
God’s family, are treated as outcasts because they are unimportant in the eyes of
the world, he finds it offensive. We should be indignant about the same things
over which he is indignant. We also ought to strive to avoid being the cause of his
displeasure. Finally in both his encounter with the children and his encounter with
the rich man we see his warmth love and compassion. It is important to note that
he exhibits such warmth not only to those who are his followers, but even for
those who are intent in going their own way.

Further Notes MARK 10:1-31


Mark opens this section with his characteristic emphasis of Jesus, with the
crowds, teaching (cp. Matt 19:2). Following each of the three topics we find the
disciples needing to receive further private instruction. The common theme is
God's standards: standards so high as to be almost unbelievable, even to the
disciples (v24, 26), highlighting the theme of service and discipleship, "taking up
your cross" (8:34-38), as well as touching on the idea of true and false religion
(Ch 2, 7:1-23).
vl-12 The question is phrased to tempt or trap Jesus, as the Pharisees seek
material to use against him. If he can be made out to be either lax or fanatical,
their job of destroying him (3:6) will be easier.
The question isn't genuine because they already have an answer they're happy
with (v4). Jesus takes them straight to scripture (Deut 24:1-4). If something is
lawful it is permitted but as Jesus expounds, that does not make it good. The
crucial difference is one of attitude. Not "What can I, get away with? What is
permissible?" but "What is right” “What is intended as best?".
Moses' instruction was given as the lesser of two evils. God's intention from the
very beginning was lifelong commitment, shown here as Jesus illuminates one
scripture by another (Gen 2:24) (see also Mal 2:13-16). Matthew makes it even
clearer that the disciples found this teaching hard. At the very least from here,
wanting to marry someone else is no grounds for divorce. v12 is another gentile
touch, as Jewish women could not initiate divorce.

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v13-16. The disciples have still not learnt the lesson about "greatness" (9:33-
37, 10:35-45). Jesus links being part of God's kingdom (13-16, 17-22, 23-31) with
accepting his assessment of priorities and values. The disciples were not
"receiving children" as instructed (9:37). The children's qualification for the
kingdom is not of course their innocence but their weakness and dependence.
Neither we nor little children can earn our way therefore we must receive it as a
gift.
v17-31. This young ruler (Matt 19:20, Lk 18:18) is clearly not the sort that the
disciples will rebuke for approaching Jesus, hence the ensuing conversation is
quite a shock for them. He is sincere, he respects Jesus and his question is
genuine.
Jesus' reply is difficult. It is totally inconsistent with many other scriptures for
Jesus to be denying his deity, therefore there is either an indirect challenge for the
man to consider the implications of calling Jesus good (e.g. as in 2:7), or a
warning not to judge goodness by human standards, neglecting God's perfect
goodness (Matt 5:48). Jesus refers him to the commandments (Lev 18:5), not
apparently to the first, great, commandment but to numbers five to nine. These
outwardly checkable laws he had kept (Jesus’ look in v21) is surely proof.
Jesus in love touches the key issue. It is actually the first commandment: are you
prepared to put God and Jesus first? Giving up your-wealth is not one of the
commandments. Neither is giving everything to the poor all we have to do (1 Cor
13:3) but we cannot enter the kingdom with riches (v23 lit. "things") as our God.
This the young man appears unable to swallow. "What must I do to enter the
kingdom?":- have God as King.
The parable in v25 should not be softened. It is impossible for the rich to get in
and as the disciples' astonishment shows it is not that the poor are any better off
in this respect. Neither riches nor poverty can earn you the keys to the kingdom.
So who can be saved? Those who are willing to let God save them (v27).
Peter, as so often, is disarmingly frank and slightly off the point but must have
been cheered by Jesus' comforting reply. Note the contrast between v21 and
v30. The Christian life is not simply struggle and sacrifice now for an enjoyable
future but is eminently worthwhile here, "in this time". This is not just a rosy-
hued picture, as Jesus' realistic addition of "persecutions” to the list shows. We
will never be worse off for following God but this means turning around and
repenting of our flawed human sense of values.

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