Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church: The Gospel of Mark/ Naked Runner Series #16
A Cultural Look Back
Before we get into today’s teaching, it is important for us to look back at what society was like in first century Israel in regards to men, women, children, religion and money. Simply said, It was a man’s world and property and wealth defined those men. By law and practice women and children were the property of men. Women had a low social standing unless they were connected to a man– first to their father and then through their husband. Through marriage came wealth, notoriety, children, and worth. A woman was considered worthless without a man and children. To bear a male child was most important to a woman because this insured the carrying on of her husband’s name and the work that he did. Property and wealth was as important to a man as a man was to a woman. A man was considered worthless without property unless he was associated with the government, the military or a religious order (and of course these institutions held considerable wealth and property). In regards to religion: works, tradition and knowledge were paramount.
Divorce Mark 10:1-12, Genesis 1:27, 2:24, Matthew 5:31-32
With the above in mind, the law for divorce was liberal and commonly practiced by men. A woman could be divorced by a man for any reason and left with nothing.
Jesus was asked about divorce by the Pharisees in order to test him and set him in a place of controversy. Jesus returned the Pharisees question with one of his own: “what did Moses command?” Jesus knew that Moses addressed divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. That law did not endorse divorce but acknowledged the practice and added protections for the woman. The law stated that a divorced woman could never again be remarried to the husband who divorced her. There were two reasons for this: 1.) A man should consider the finality of such a decision 2.) That man should never obtain a second dowry for her (a dowry was property or money given by the father of a bride to a husband on their marriage). Jesus reminded the Pharisees that Moses wrote those laws because Jewish hearts were hardened with the long standing tradition of divorce. God’s command concerning marriage was recorded in Genesis : “the two shall become one flesh”. What God had joined together, none should separate”, said Jesus.
Later the disciples asked Jesus for clarification on this teaching and Jesus likened divorce and remarriage to adultery. In Matthew’s Gospel that discussion with his disciples is made clearer by their response. They surmised that it would be better to never marry than to be divorced, and this was Jesus’ point exactly. We should not enter a marriage contract lightly and if a marriage should have trouble then we should take every care to fix it! The caviler attitude of the Pharisees and society concerning divorce was and is wrong! Jesus comparing divorce to breaking the seventh commandment of God (Exodus 20:14) really shook people up!
“For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Malachi 2:16 NLT
Jesus continued his teaching to the disciples by reminding them that few people were mature enough not to get married because they first counted the cost of that decision. Jesus said that some are born eunuchs (with no sexual interest) and others were made eunuchs (castrated) while others choose to live like eunuchs to be focused on serving God. The one who chooses not to be married in order to be freed up to serve God should do it! The Apostle Paul also gave this advice (1 Corinthians 7:1-7) and lived as a celibate preaching the gospel.
A full bible study on Divorce & Re-marriage by Pastor Barry is available by request.
Little Children Mark 10:13-16
While the people’s ears were still ringing from his sobering lesson on divorce, women brought their children to Jesus for a blessing which was another cultural taboo. Children and women were not to bother a rabbi (religious teacher). They were to be seen and not heard. Jesus was annoyed (indignant) when the disciples rebuked the children and he called them to himself and blessed them. Once again, he drove the message home to those self-important people in the crowd that no one gets into heaven without a humble heart and then entered a rich man!
First and Last Mark 10:17-31, James 3:14-16, Philippians 2:1-11
Jesus responded to the rich man’s plea for eternal life with a reminder to all that “the good teacher” was and is “God alone”. We must never forget that Jesus is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3). God alone is perfect …the rich man and we are not. There is always something that stands in the way of our following Jesus. For this man it was his wealth and his pursuit of it. What stands in the way for you? Jesus let the man go away sad because one will never follow Christ until he comes to the end of himself. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God”, said Jesus. But it was not wealth alone he spoke of here, but ones selfishness that keeps him from the kingdom of God.
In regards to men, women, children, religion and money society was sick then and it is now too. Selfishness is, and always has been, in the hearts of men. It is the demonic detour from the kingdom of God. “Who can be saved?” With man left to himself this is as impossible as a “camel going through the eye of a needle”, “but with God; all things are possible”.
Peter ends the passage in his own selfishness expecting that he and the disciples should get what the rich man forfeited because they had left all for the gospel. Jesus put Peter in check by adding “persecutions” to his list of his promised “blessings”. We must put others first in marriage, in family, in service, and in faith. Like a child…the last shall be first.