Mark 10:17-52 Intense Loyalty
This text is about the coming to grips with what God wants from us, what His claim is on our lives. We’ve talked about the fact of the Kingdom; that this kingdom was a declaration of doom to all other authorities. Herod wasn’t stupid for having all the babies killed. Jesus really is a threat. But He is a completely different kind of threat.
Jesus began by discussing marriage and family and children. This is Jesus’ call to discipleship. If you will be citizens in my kingdom, don’t divorce your wives. Jesus in effect says: Love them, bear with them, forgive them, and lead them sacrificially, as I am leading you. Next, you need to get off your high horse. You are not special. You need to come as children recognizing your weakness, recognizing your ignorance, and cling in faith to what has been revealed. And don’t get proud about that either. This prohibition by the disciples reminds us of their prohibition of the rogue exorcists in 9:38. If they are not against me, they are for me, Jesus has said. And the parallel here is quite strong. While children certainly are descended from Adam and bear those signs, they are some of the quickest to believe and obey. Relatively speaking, they follow with much more ease than a 60 year old man, set in his ways. Children are not obviously against Jesus; therefore they are “for” Him, especially if their parents are bringing them. While nothing is ever guaranteed by the parents’ faith, the family is the normal means of nurturing faith (1 Cor. 7:14ff).
The Rich Man
The rich man comes running (v. 17). While some have wanted to say that Jesus use of the law here is only in order condemn or convict the man, Jesus does not question the man’s response, but rather “loved him” (10:21). What we might notice is that all of the law that Jesus quotes is largely our duty towards our neighbor. The final test is whether the man will follow the law in terms of duty toward God. God doesn’t ask everyone to sell everything and follow Him. But sometimes he does.
Jesus explains to the disciples how difficult it is for rich people to enter the kingdom. This is astonishing to some degree simply because the OT speaks about how material prosperity is normally a blessing from God for obedience (Gen. 20:14-16, Josh. 22:7-8, Ps. 112:1-3, Prov. 3:16, 8:18, 14:24, Is. 61:6). Of course there are just as many passages speaking about the potential dangers of riches, but the disciples’ reaction is forgivable if only for the fact that this man was a covenant keeping Jew. He was faithful; he showed himself to be wise and honest. These characteristics would seem to imply that his riches were a blessing from God (and perhaps they were!). But all of our possessions are God’s. Everything we have is a gift to be used for how ever long God deems right. Our attitude must always be that of Job (Job 1:21). This is why we tithe; this is why we keep the Lord’s Day. We give these tokens back to God in recognition that it is ALL His.
Notice that Jesus calls the disciples “children”. This is particularly significant given the fact that Jesus has said that all of his disciples must become like little children (v. 15). Notice also that Jesus gives a rather silly example of how difficult it is for rich people to enter the kingdom. A camel going through the eye of a needle is quite humorous, and something that children would most likely enjoy. Of course, Peter points out that they have given up everything, and Jesus assures Him that this is right and good, and that they will be repaid everything along with persecutions and eternal life (v. 29-30).
The Road to Jerusalem
Here Jesus repeats for the third time what His plans are concerning dying and rising again. This is the first time He is not greeted with outright confusion or rebuke, but the response is still less then brilliant. James and John ask to be seated on His right and left hands in His glory. And of course Jesus’ response is to ask whether they have been listening. Do they know what His “glory” is going to be? They say yes, but the reader is left wondering. And given what we know, we understand that Jesus’ “right and left” point at least immediately to those who will be crucified with Him. But Jesus does not deny their request outright, he rather reminds them once more that service is the way to greatness (vv. 42-45). Notice too, that Jesus uses the word “ransom”. The same word is used in the Septuagint throughout the Old Testament to refer to the redemption of people and lands that were in some way enslaved or “owned” by someone else. This is the way the disciples are to rule in the Kingdom of Jesus: they are to give their lives as ransoms. They are to imitate Jesus, redeeming many from slavery.
The chapter ends with Blind Bartimaeus. This story has several connections with what has occurred over the entire chapter. First, Bartimaeus means “son of Timaeus” and “Timaeus” means something like honor or riches. In particular though, the root of this man’s name can refer to “something purchased”, or the “price of someone or something”. And given what Jesus has just said, that He plans to be a “ransom” for many. Bartimaeus is immediately held up as a shining example. Bartimaeus is “son of a slave”. This of course seems all backwards. The Kingdom is for citizens, right? Who are these citizens? Jesus is teaching his disciples to expect that the kingdom will be filled with these rejected, outcast, and enslaved ones. Secondly, notice Batimaeus’ manner. He just starts yelling. He begins yelling at the top of his lungs and the people standing around him are incredibly embarrassed. But he keeps yelling. He has no self-image that he is trying to protect. He has heard that Jesus is coming, and that is all he needs to know. So he yells, and he keeps yelling. Bartimaeus is acting like a small child. He knows what his problem is; he knows that he is completely helpless; and so he cries out to Jesus without another care in the world. Finally, remember that Bartimaeus threw aside his garment and then stood up and approached Jesus. Bartimaeus was a beggar, and it is more than likely that this cloak was everything that Bartimaeus owned. And he knew that nothing else mattered. In contrast to the rich man, Bartimaeus gave up everything he had to follow Jesus. Jesus declares that it is Bartimaeus’ “faith” that makes him well. And while he is completely free to go or do whatever he wants, Bartimaeus decides to follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem (10:52 cf. 10:32-34) which shows us that he understands.
Conclusion and Application
God calls us to intense loyalty: all that we are and have must be placed in the service of the King. We live in the monarchy of King Jesus. And as we give all of it up to Him, He gives it all back to us (v. 29-30, cf. Achan: Josh. 6:19, 8:2). Living by the law of first fruits is practical Postmillennialism.