It was a humid Wednesday evening, and I was getting ready to go to bible study. I caught a glimpse of my blue jeans and white t-shirt in the mirror, and knew that it would do little to impress the cute boy I liked at bible study.
I decided to layer a red racer-back tank top over my white t-shirt. I sprayed on some perfume, put on some earrings, and a swipe of lip gloss. Finally satisfied with my appearance, I walk across the street to the house our bible study group meets in.
This picture is what I was going for only my tank was red!
Immediately upon my arrival, the Dasher’s young daughter runs over to give me a hug.
“Shelby! Have you been baking?” she asks me curiously.
“Why?” I say, “Do I smell like cookies or something?”
“No! You’ve got an apron on!” she says laughing.
I look down at my red racer-back tank. Layered over my white tee. And she’s right. Instead of the casually cute look I was going for, I had nailed the “apron look.”
The picture above was my actual look, minus the cap.
I laugh with her, wondering all the while if I have time to sneak back over to my house to take off my apron.
Do you remember those innocent years of your own adolescence?
As a small child, life was simple and uncomplicated. I never worried if I was saying the right thing when someone asked my opinion, and I didn’t agonize over the way I looked or dressed. As children, we were simple in our thinking and honest in our answers. We were willing to be wrong, and we were teachable. Each new day brought something new to learn, some new territory to explore, and new people just waiting to become friends.
Children are simple, forthright, and humble. I was reminded of how true this is by my friend’s daughter who asked if I was wearing an apron.
And there is a lesson in these truths for one who wants to follow Jesus.
In this chapter of Mark, Jesus leaves Galilee for the last time, and begins an expansive ministry in the region of Judea, also known as Perea. Mark will weave together three contrasting stories in this chapter for one important purpose.
What kind of person can enter the Kingdom of God?
Jesus enters the region of Judea and is immediately met by Pharisees who question him about divorce. In Jewish culture, men were not permitted to divorce their wives unless they had a written certificate permitting the divorce. There were some rabbis who had very strict views about what qualified for divorce while other rabbis had very liberal views on the qualifications. Jesus, who was by this time, known as a powerful rabbi with great authority would be questioned about many matters particular to Jewish faith over his lifetime. This subject, of course, is still one heavily debated. Jesus astounds both the Pharisees and his disciples by his answers, and you’ll have to read to understand why. This conversation in Mark deserves its own post, but suffice to say for now, we’ll focus on a larger story at work in this chapter.
Immediately following this conversation, Jesus witnesses his disciples rebuking men and women in the crowd. People were bringing their little ones to them so Jesus could bless their children.
Imagine the scene.
It’s a hot and dusty evening and Jesus has been in intense conversation with Pharisees. A crowd is gathering around them with children. Babies are crying, toddlers are running about, and the disciples step in for some crowd control.
“Ma’am, yes you with the squalling baby,” Peter says pushing his way towards her, “Jesus is very busy right now, step away from the Rabbi please.”
“No sir,” John states to the man with a sneezing tot, “I know your son has a cold, but Jesus is doing very important work right now. You’ll have to come back later when he isn’t so busy.”
Jesus finishes his conversation, and observes what is happening. He sees the parents and their children being pushed backwards, while his disciples clear the way for him.
Jesus becomes indignant. Angry. Furious that his disciples are hindering young children from getting to meet him. Jesus says,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Peter steps away from the woman. John looks down ashamed. The crowd begins lining up, and one unruly kid breaks free from his mom.
Running right into the open arms of Jesus.
This scene is immediately followed with a young man running up to Jesus. He throws himself at the feet of Jesus, and he begins his conversation directly (just like a child might.)
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Ah finally, the question we have all been asking.
And Jesus answers the way any good Rabbi might.
“You know what the commandments are…” and Jesus begins to list them.
Again, forthright and honestly, the rich young man blurts out,
“I have kept these all since I was a boy!!”
So Jesus looks at the young man, and lovingly and gently tells him the truth.
“One thing you lack…Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. The come, follow me.”
The rich young man was direct with Jesus. He asked a simple, honest question. But the rich young man wasn’t humble like a child might be. He wasn’t teachable. He was given a command from Jesus in response to his question, but he was not willing to obey.
Instead, he revealed where his allegiance really lied. His loyalty belonged to his money and all the power and control that came along with it. Of course, he wanted to ‘have eternal life’ but at what cost? All his worldly goods and possessions now? He wasn’t quite sure about all of that.
The young man turns away sad, while Jesus and his disciples continue on their way. Not long after this, James and John ask Jesus a very important question.
“Lord, Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.”
It seems like an odd request, but perhaps not so odd in light of all the miraculous events they had witnessed and participated in. They saw Jesus stand on a mountain talking with Moses and Elijah. They wanted to be right there with him in all that awesome glory.
Seen as powerful. In control. Possessing all authority. Desiring all the world has to offer just like the rich young man earlier.
At this, the other disciples become indignant. They have been following Jesus around now for two years, and these two morons are going to ask him to be elevated above them? Who are they kidding?
Jesus response to their question is one which speaks to the most basic desire that we all really have. We all want to be important. Well-known and Successful. It’s rooted deep inside of all of us. We work to establish a good reputation and secure a legacy. Nobody wants to be forgotten. We all want to be respected, loved, and known for something. It’s how we’re wired, right? But how does one become great?
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45
So what kind of person must you be if you want to be in Jesus’ Kingdom?
To be great, you must become small. To be first, a slave to all. You must serve and give your life. You must be willing to lay aside all the wealth, honor, and pursuit of success and become child-like in your attitude. Simple. Forthright. Humble.
Not exactly what our leadership books are saying these days, are they?
As you read Mark Chapter 10
Compare and Contrast
Mark uses the word indignant twice in this chapter in two very different contexts. Why the same word, and what is Mark really trying to help us understand? Mark also draws many contrasts between us and Jesus, but this one is important. See if you can determine why.
Notice the Similarities
Jesus interacts with many people in this chapter- Disciples, Pharisees, little kids, parents, and common people in the crowd. Every single person in this chapter seems to be flabbergasted by all that Jesus says and does including his own disciples. What about Jesus would have seemed so revolutionary to everyone else at his time? Does he still feel revolutionary today?
See the Man who followed Jesus
There is one man in this story who ends up following Jesus. A blind man, Bartimaeus, hears that Jesus is passing by him on a road and yells, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowds around him try to quiet and shush him, but the man shouts all the more at Jesus. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus, of course, will heal the man, and this once-blind man will follow him. What makes the blind man different from the rich young man? What makes him different than the disciples squabbling about who gets to sit next to their rabbi in glory? Perhaps, he was willing to lay aside his self-importance, and simply ask Jesus to do for him what he could never accomplish for himself. He knew that “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” was a ridiculous question. And so he takes another approach all together. The blind man makes a spectacle of himself in the crowds hollering at Jesus, breaks free from the crowd, and runs right into the open arms of Jesus for healing.
And finally, Mark Chapter 10
Mark 10 English Standard Version (ESV)
Teaching About Divorce
10 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?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 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,[a] 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.”
10 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.”
Let the Children Come to Me
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
The Rich Young Man
17 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?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 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.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 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.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 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[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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,[c] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 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. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time
32 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.”
The Request of James and John
35 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.” 36 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.” 38 Jesus said to them, “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?” 39 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, 40 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.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 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,[d] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[e] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus
46 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.
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