Mark 10 Commentary

vv.1-16

“Jesus typically fends off his opponents by going on the counterattack. When the Pharisees ask whether divorce is lawful, he asks them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ This rejoinder recasts the issue from a hypothetical debate about some unspecified husband to a command directed to them. It also exposes a fatal flaw in the Pharisees’ whole approach to the law. They come at the law asking, ‘What does it allow me to do?’ or, to put it more bluntly, ‘What can I get away with?’ This preoccupation with legal subtleties ultimately neglects God’s will, which is primarily concerned with love for the neighbor (12:31). They are interested in their rights, not their responsibilities, and pursue legal exoneration for a behavior no matter how it might affect another person. They ask only about the husband’s right to divorce and pay no attention to the needs of the wife — what it does to her or to children, whether she has any right to object to a divorce. Jesus’ question uncovers their sinful hearts hidden behind the mask of legal rectitude.”[1]

“The basic fact that vitiated the whole situation was that in Jewish law a woman was regarded as a thing. She had no legal rights whatever but was at the complete disposal of the male head of the family. The result was that a man could divorce his wife on almost any grounds, while there were very few on which a woman could seek divorce. At best she could only ask her husband to divorce her. ‘A woman may be divorced with or without her will, but a man only with his will.?’”[2]

vv.13-16

“In the ancient world, children had no status. They were easily ignored and barred access because no one would take the trouble to complain and fight for them. These children, who must be brought to Jesus by others, have nothing to commend an audience with him and cannot defend themselves against bullies. Jesus holds them up again as an example. Their littleness contrasts sharply with the overbearing disciples, who want to assert their power and influence. The disciples need to learn not only to minister to the little ones but also to adopt the attitude of littleness. The little ones are easily pushed aside because they are weak, but God works most powerfully in weakness. When one is appropriately little, like a child, or poor in spirit (Matt 5:3), one is more open to receiving the reign of God.”[3]

vv.17-31

“This brusque response gets to the core issue raised by this encounter. The man’s salutation assumes that one can find goodness in human resources and accomplishments. Probably, he identifies himself as ‘good’ as well and asks his question from one good man to another. He wants to know how to ensure that his goodness will pay off in eternal life. He hopes that Jesus can relieve any lingering doubts about his chances and inform him if there is anything in the fine print he needs to worry about. As the scene develops, God’s demands turn out to be far more costly than he bargained for, and Jesus’ teaching reveals another paradox: Goodness and salvation do not come from our own valiant efforts but only as a gift from God.”[4]

“His response, ‘Teacher … all these I have kept since I was a boy,’ is then either a defensive reaction or a triumphant exclamation. He has been good, and one should no more doubt his sincerity than that of the apostle Paul. Paul claimed that as a zealous Pharisee he was blameless according to the righteousness that comes from obedience to the law (Phil. 3:6).

“With an eye for poignant detail, Mark tells us that Jesus looked at the man and loved him (Mark 10:21). Jesus does not sneer at his claims to have obeyed the law. He believes what he says about his obedience; but because he loves him, he directly challenges him. He does not try to spare his feelings or avoid offending him but candidly speaks the truth. The man regards himself as respectably good, but being respectably good is not good enough. He lacks one thing. This statement implies that knowing the commandments and faithfully keeping them do not secure eternal life. Jesus does not tell the man specifically what the one thing is but gives him four directives: ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor. … Then come, follow me.’ These commands stress that if one wants eternal life, everything depends on one’s response to Jesus.”

“The episode when blind Bartimaeus ‘is saved [healed]’ by his faith (10:52) answers this question more fully. Jesus only affirms here that salvation comes from a divine possibility, not from a human one. He corrects the implicit assumption in the rich man’s initial question. The man asked, ‘What must I do?’ (10:17) and asserted, ‘All these I have kept since I was a boy’ (10:20). He assumed that one could attain eternal life by doing something. Since he wanted something he could do, Jesus obliged him: Sell all that you have and give it to the poor. The disciples are to learn from this encounter that God requires something more than reverence for Jesus as a good teacher and earnest attempts to obey God’s commands (see Rom. 10:2 – 3). The man has attained conventional respectability with a genteel approach to obedience. But Jesus’ demand exposes the man’s reluctance to give himself and all he has over to God — to deny himself and all his earthly securities, works, and possessions. He falls short of the one thing the reign of God requires. To enter the kingdom of God one must submit to God’s rule so that God reigns over every aspect of life.”[5]

“Jesus’ confrontation of the rich man expresses true love. Many need to hear his disturbing demand because he casts a spotlight on our everyday values from eternity’s angle of vision. From that perspective, our covetousness looks rather silly. Those who invest only in themselves, in their security, and in their own comfort and pleasure need to know that they are making a bad investment. No amount of law observance will turn hearts set on the desire for material things to God. If Jesus advised radical surgery on hands, feet, and eyes so that one can enter life, even if maimed (9:43 – 48), how much more should we get rid of possessions that anchor the soul to this world and will only fuel the flames of judgment?”[6]

“Like so many today, this rich man wanted to serve God on his own terms. He obeyed all the commandments that suited him but resisted giving his whole life over to God. He was ‘afraid to expose himself to the uncertainties and insecurities of the future’ or to make himself vulnerable as a child. He accumulated possessions to secure his life in this world, and he accumulated obedience to the commandments to secure his life in the world to come. In a culture that has grown wary of commitment and risk, few want to bet their whole lives on Jesus. They also want to keep a material safety net and refuse to disentangle themselves from something that brings status, influence, and privilege. Few are willing to trust that there will be other brothers and sisters in the faith who will watch over them and care for them, partly because we do not watch out for them. To have life, one must trust God and give up the quest to create one’s own security.”[7]

vv.32-45

“It tells us of the courage of Jesus. Three times Jesus foretold the things that were to happen to him in Jerusalem, and as Mark tells of these warnings, each time they grow grimmer and some further detail of horror is included. At first (?Mark 8:31?) it is the bare announcement. At the second time the hint of betrayal is there (?Mark 9:31?). And now at the third time the jesting, the mocking and the scourging appear. It would seem as if the picture became ever clearer in the mind of Jesus as he became more and more aware of the cost of redemption.

“There are two kinds of courage. There is the courage which is a kind of instinctive reaction, almost a reflex action, the courage of the man confronted out of the blue with a crisis to which he instinctively reacts with gallantry, scarcely having time to think. Many a man has become a hero in the heat of the moment. There is also the courage of the man who sees the grim thing approaching far ahead, who has plenty of time to turn back, who could, if he chose, evade the issue, and who yet goes on. There is no doubt which is the higher courage—this known deliberate facing of the future. That is the courage Jesus showed. If no higher verdict was possible, it would still be true to say of Jesus that he ranks with the heroes of the world.”[8]

vv.46-52

“Despite the shadow of the cross looming ever larger across his path, he can still hear the cries of others in distress. The crowd tries to make the man stop his clamor; Jesus stops for him. The crowd usually gets things wrong. No one is too insignificant to Jesus to command his attention. A leper, a woman with a hemorrhage, little children, and now a blind beggar all received Jesus’ care.”[9]


[1] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) .

[2] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark CD version, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975).

[3] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) .

[4] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) .

[5] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark CD version, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975).

[6] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) .

[7] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) .

[8]William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark CD version, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975).

[9]David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) .

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